Coombe apologises over ‘failings in care’ of mother who died of sepsis

Karen McEvoy (24) had given birth to her third child a week before she died in 2018

The Coombe hospital has apologised for the “failings in care” of a young mother who died of sepsis on Christmas Day three years ago.

Karen McEvoy (24) had given birth to her third child at the Dublin hospital just a week before.

Her family, including her partner Barry Kelly and their children Ruby (2), Toby (3) and Jake (6), have settled High Court actions over her death.

Afterwards, outside the Four Courts, Mr Kelly said Ms McEvoy was an amazing young woman and mother whose death was “completely preventable” had she been properly treated and cared for.


“Instead, she was wrongly diagnosed with sciatica when in fact she had sepsis,’ he said.

Mr Kelly, who was engaged to Ms McEvoy at the time of her death, added that “no amount of money will ever change anything for myself and our three children”.

Flanked by his legal team, Esther Earley BL and solicitor Niamh O’Brien, he said he hoped his family’s loss would increase awareness of sepsis in maternity hospitals in Ireland.

Ms McEvoy, from Blessington, Co Wicklow, gave birth to her third child on December 18th, 2018. She and her baby were discharged from hospital the next day. In the days after, she became ill and complained of lower back and abdominal pain.

On December 23rd, Ms McEvoy and her baby returned to the Coombe for routine screening of the baby and, it was claimed, relayed her own complaints and was advised to attend the hospital emergency department. She attended the emergency department complaining of severe back and abdominal pain and feeling generally unwell.

On Christmas Day, Ms McEvoy’s condition was very grave and she was transferred by ambulance to Naas General Hospital. She arrived at the hospital after midday and died before 4pm from multi-organ failure with septicemia due to an infection.

The letter of apology to Mr Kelly from the Master of the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Professor Michael O'Connell was read to the High Court.

Sincere apologies

It expressed sincere apologies to Mr Kelly and his three children “for our failings in care afforded to Ms McEvoy at this hospital on December 23rd, 2018”.

The letter went on: “I fully accept that these failings should not have happened. I can’t begin to imagine the consequences of Karen’s sad loss on you, Jake, Toby, Ruby, your extended family and Karen’s family.

“We in the Coombe are truly sorry for the distress that Karen’s death has caused,” it said.

Liability was admitted in the cases and the settlements in the actions over Ms McEvoy’s death and for nervous shock were reached after mediation. The details of the settlements are confidential but the court heard very substantial compensation was involved.

The family’s counsel, Richard Kean SC, said the family experienced a “calamitous event”.

“It is an appalling tragedy and our experts would say that if Karen got a modicum of treatment she would have made an uneventful recovery,’ counsel said.

Approving the settlements, which include the statutory mental distress payment of €35,000, Mr Justice Paul Coffey conveyed his deepest sympathy to the families.

Ms McEvoy’s son Jake Kelly, of Redbog, Blessington, Co Wicklow had through his father Barry Kelly sued the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital, Dublin. The six-year-old boy had sued on his own behalf and on behalf of his family including his brother, sister and extended family.

Alleged failure

It was claimed there was a failure to provide any adequate treatment to Ms McEvoy and that she was caused to contract the Group A streptococcus infection. There was also an alleged failure to heed complaints by Ms McEvoy prior to her discharge on December 19th and an alleged failure to carry out an accurate assessment or investigation of her prior to her discharge.

It was also claimed there was a failure to investigate the cause of her severe low abdominal back pain and raised heart rate before her discharge and a failure to adequately examine or scan her to ensure the placenta had been fully removed.

She had been discharged at a time when she was unfit for discharge and there was a failure to consider she might be developing maternal sepsis, it was claimed.

There was also an alleged failure to notice upon her presentation to the emergency department that she was suffering from suspected sepsis, particularly in light of her complaints and the fact she had recently given birth.

It was further claimed that there was a failure to arrange an urgent hospital admission for treatment.

It was also alleged there was a failure to follow all protocols in place at the Coombe Hospital for the diagnosis, early recognition and management of maternal infection and sepsis.

Ms McEvoy was denied a timely diagnosis of her condition and denied admission for essential treatment therapeutic interventions which resulted in her condition deteriorating culminating in her untimely death, the action claimed.