Damages paid after death of Malak Thawley at Holles Street

Hospital case settled for compensatory damages only, High Court has been told

The High Court was told Alan Thawley, had agreed a settlement with the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin following the death of his wife, Malak Thawley. Photograph: Collins Courts

A man whose wife died during surgery for an ectopic pregnancy at the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin has settled his High Court action.

Malak Thawley was 34 years of age, a teacher and a US citizen who was expecting her first baby with her husband Alan when she died at Holles Street on May 8th, 2016. When the case opened before the High Court last week, Alan Thawley's counsel said what happened was a "cascade of negligence" and "it was one negligent act after another".

Senior Counsel Liam Reidy SC said the doctor who carried out the surgery was an inexperienced junior surgeon and was not supervised. Counsel told the court how inept the entire process at the hospital was, illustrated in the fact that when they decided to cool Mrs Thawley’s brain with ice, two doctors were sent across the road to a pub to get ice as there was none in the hospital.

The fact the Minister for Health directed a statutory inquiry in to the case gave no comfort to Mrs Thawley’s widower. Counsel said the data scientist can’t get over his wife’s death and has “severe hopelessness”. She said the situation had caused a “catastrophic disturbance” of Mr Thawley’s psychiatric well-being and he is not likely to recover.


Outside court, Mr Thawley said, after a long and difficult process, the proceedings had been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. “There is no compensation that could replace the profound loss of my wife’s untimely and needless death,” he said.


When the case came before Mr Justice Anthony Barr he was told the case was settled and could be struck out. Mr Reidy SC said the case had been settled for compensatory damages only and aggravated or exemplary damages were not involved. No other details of the settlement, which is confidential, were given to the court.

Mr Thawley (31), Brusna Cottages, Blackrock, Dublin had sued the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin over the death on May 8th, 2016 of his wife Malak, who was originally from Dallas, Texas.

It was claimed Mrs Thawley suffered a laceration to the surface of her aorta and there was complete mismanagement of the major vascular injury and Mrs Thawley’s deteriorating condition, culminating in the loss of opportunity to save her life; and her eventual and avoidable demise.

It was also claimed there was a failure to have vascular clamps available on site at the hospital for emergencies and a failure to have a red phone installed in theatre for use in emergencies. It was further claimed Mrs Thawley’s life was unacceptably endangered during the operative procedure and her death occurred as a result of the injury inflicted upon her and the mismanagement of the injury afterwards.

Mr Thawley had also sued for nervous shock and claims his whole life and happiness with his late wife, together with his plans and dreams for their future, have been annihilated. Liability was not at issue in the case whichwas before the court for assessment of damages only.

The High Court also heard when proceedings to sue were issued in January last year, a letter admitting liability in the case was issued the next day. In the letter, the hospital also apologised and extended deepest condolences.

Counsel for the hospital Eoin McCullough told the court it apologised on numerous occasions and an internal inquiry was also set up.

Opening the case last week, Liam Reidy SC said the Thawleys had been profoundly happy and excited when she became pregnant. As a surprise gift her husband had arranged a scan at six weeks. At the scan they were told to go to Holles Street.

Ectopic pregnancy

Counsel said it was a Sunday and an ultrasound at Holles Street confirmed an ectopic pregnancy. Mr Thawley had googled ectopic pregnancy and had seen it could be treated with certain medicine, but counsel said he was told because the foetal sac had a heartbeat the only option was surgery.

The couple felt they should follow the advice. Counsel said to this day Mr Thawley regrets the decision made, but the couple were reassured it was a routine procedure which would take 30 minutes.

Mrs Thawley was taken to theatre at 4pm. “Alan never saw her again,” counsel said. At 5.30pm a nurse told him a lot of blood was found in the abdomen and at 6.30pm a doctor came to him and he was told his wife had lost 10 units of blood “but they were dealing with it”.

Counsel said Mr Thawley felt he was not being told the full picture.

At 7.30pm, the Master of the National Maternity Hospital Dr Rhona Mahony came to him and told him the situation was very serious. "About 20 minutes later, she returned with a specialist surgeon and said 'Malak is dead.'"