Aoife Johnston inquest: ‘We watched our daughter die – I wouldn’t wish it on anyone’

Parents of 16-year-old girl who died at University Hospital Limerick following a failure in her care give evidence

The parents of a 16-year-old girl who died at University Hospital Limerick following a failure in her care tried to reassure her that she was in the best place only for them to watch her die two days later, an inquest has heard.

Carol Johnston told the inquest into the death of her daughter, Aoife Johnston, that “we watched our daughter die – I wouldn’t wish it on anyone” as she recounted how the hospital treated her after she was admitted to the emergency department UHL at 5.40pm on December 17th, 2022.

“God love us, Aoife was doing her best – I told her she was in the best place, but she wasn’t,” said Ms Johnston as she outlined how her daughter was treated for almost 48 hours at UHL before she died at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit at 3.31pm on December 19th, 2022.

Ms Johnston told how her husband, James, had taken Aoife to Shannon Doc at around 4.50pm after she complained of feeling unwell after vomiting twice and the GP on duty advised him to take her to University Hospital as he suspected that she had sepsis.


They arrived at UHL at 5.40pm and Aoife had vomited twice before she was triaged at 7.15pm by a nurse who provided her with a wheelchair, and she was moved into what seemed like a storeroom where they put two chairs together so she could lie down as they were no trolleys available.

James Johnston said: “Aoife’s skin became blotchy – she also had a mark on her left eye which looked like a birthmark on the corner of her eye. I brought this to the nurse’s attention – Aoife was violently vomiting and it was pure green liquid – I continually begged for help.”

“The response was a brown cup for Aoife to vomit into and one occasion a rebuke, ‘I am aware well she is sick but I have 70 other patients to look after’ – I was up and down all night pleading with them to help my daughter – Aoife was screaming in agony with pain in her right leg and head.”

Mr Johnston told the inquest before Limerick Coroner, John McNamara, how at one point in the night, Aoife was being brought for an X-ray and he asked to accompany her but he was told by staff he wasn’t needed and when Aoife returned, she was very upset.

“She was vomiting and she had blotchiness on her skin – the doctor told us she would treat Aoife as if she had meningitis. After the doctor left, Aoife started to get worse. I went out to the nurses station and there were approximately 12 nurses just standing there – I roared at them to help my daughter.

“At this point, my daughter could no long communicate – notwithstanding this, the nurse was saying ‘Aoife, if you don’t tell us what’s wrong with, how can I know’,” said Mr Johnston who when questioned by his lawyer, Damian Tansey SC, rejected any suggestion that Aoife improved during the night.

“She kept getting sicker and sicker as the night went on – they gave her paracetamol and they put ice packs on her legs but they were really of no help, " said Mr Johnston who had earlier placed a photograph of Aoife on the witness stand following an invitation to do so by the coroner.

The inquest opened with counsel for the HSE Conor Halpin SC reading out letters of apology to both Mr and Ms Johnston and Aoife’s older sisters, Meagan and Kate, from both HSE Chief Executive Bernard Gloster and then Group Chief Executive of UL Hospitals Group, Prof Colette Cowan.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times