Doctors unable to establish why girl (3) died suddenly, inquest told

Open verdict recorded in case of Ella O’Callaghan, who coroner suspects died of sepsis

Ella Martin (3) pictured with her mother Olivia O’Callaghan. Photograph:  Cork Courts Limited.

Ella Martin (3) pictured with her mother Olivia O’Callaghan. Photograph: Cork Courts Limited.


An open verdict has been recorded at an inquest into the death of a previously healthy three-year-old girl from Co Cork who died suddenly after falling ill.

Ella Martin, from Blackrock, died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on September 14th, 2015 but doctors were unable to give her family a cause of death, Cork City Coroner’s Court heard.

Olivia O’Callaghan, Ella’s mother, said her daughter vomited the day before her death and was taken to hospital the next day, where she was treated for a suspected case of sepsis.

Ms O’Callaghan said that on September 13th, 2015 at about 6pm she met Ella’s father but their child projectile vomited during the outing and had to be taken home. However, the court heard she was later “in good form” and went to sleep normally.

The following day Ms O’Callaghan checked on Ella prior to going to work and leaving her in the care of her mother. Ella watched some television, ate a little and drank some 7up during the day but subsequently became more ill and was taken to a local GP, who referred her to CUH.

Ella’s condition deteriorated in hospital and shortly after 5pm she went into cardiac arrest. Efforts were made to resuscitate her but Ella died, the inquest heard.

Ms O’Callaghan told Coroner Philip Comyn that instead of celebrating her 23rd birthday, she ended up burying her daughter.


Prof Conor Deasy said that Ella had been vomiting and had diarrhoea on presentation at CUH. Doctors believed that she had a case of sepsis and intravenous antibiotics were administered and tests were carried out.

He said other diagnoses were considered in the case but they felt that Ella had most likely died from sepsis. He said staff and doctors at CUH were “deeply affected” by her death.

Dr Margaret Bolster, an Assistant State Pathologist, said a vast number of experts had been consulted in in an effort to establish Ella’s cause of death but no anatomic reason could be established. Dr Bolster said it was rare that sepsis would be cause a death without being identified anatomically.

Recording an open verdict in the case, Mr Comyn said it was his suspicion that Ella had died as a result of sepsis.

The court heard there was no genetic background to what had happened and this would have no impact on the physical health of Ella’s sister, Maya, who was born last year.

In a statement after the inquest the O’Callaghan family said the loss of Ella was keenly felt.

“The loss of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. Ella was a beautiful and happy little girl. She was gentle and kind to everyone.”

The family also expressed concern at what they perceived as delays in receiving feedback on the genetic testing in the case.