Cavan hospital nurses dispute patient’s evidence at Medical Council hearing

Lawyer for obstetrician seeks to have inquiry halted due to conflicts over evidence

Siobhan Whelan and her husband Andrew pictured with a photograph of their son Conor James Whelan at his inquest at Cavan courthouse in 2016. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

Two midwives with Cavan General Hospital have told a Medical Council fitness to practice inquiry they would stop a doctor conducting a procedure on a patient if they felt the woman had not given her consent.

Midwives Ann Arnott and Olive McKeague were giving evidence on the second day of an inquiry into a complaint by Siobhán Whelan, of Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, that a vaginal procedure was carried out on her in the hospital without her consent.

The inquiry into the allegation of professional misconduct and/or poor professional performance against Dr Rita Mehta, the local consultant obstetrician who carried out the procedure, has heard she said she got consent and she could not have carried out the procedure otherwise, given its nature.

The procedure was carried out on May 13th, 2014 after Ms Whelan had presented at the hospital. Her child, Conor, who was delivered by caesarean section, died 17 hours after being delivered.


In her evidence on Monday, Ms Whelan described telling Dr Mehta loudly she did not want her waters to be broken, a procedure called an artificial rupture of membranes.

Asked about this by Prof Patrick Plunkett, one of the three-person inquiry committee, Ms Arnott said she had no such recollection. "If that happened I would have to interject. I would have to ask the doctor to stop and to explain further what was going on."

Ms McKeague, who was also in the room on the day in question, said she did not recall any departure from the hospital protocol that a woman should be advised beforehand as to what was going to happen. Asked by Eileen Barrington SC, for Dr Mehta, what she would do if a patient protested, she said: “I would ask the person to stop doing what they were doing.”

Ms McKeague was asked about Ms Whelan’s evidence that she could not physically get away from Dr Mehta, who she was “begging” not to carry out the procedure, because she, Ms Whelan, was in stirrups. Ms McKeague said she did not recall Ms Whelan being in stirrups.

Ms Arnott said she could not recall a woman being in stirrups for the procedure for “many years”. If Ms Whelan had been put in stirrups, she would have done it along with another midwife. She had no recollection of that happening.

Midwives Remmi Rabidoux and Ann Marie Murray, as well as doctors Kalsum Khan and Rupanjali Kundu, also told the inquiry they did not see Ms Whelan in stirrups while they were in the room.

Ms Arnott told Neasa Bird BL, for the Medical Council, Ms Whelan and her husband, Andrew, were agitated to a slightly abnormal extent.

She was listening to Ms Whelan and got “slightly concerned”, but not for clinical reasons. “Sometimes a woman has that sixth sense that something is not right. I was worried because she was worried,” Ms Arnott said. She was “beginning to think there’s something here”.

Ms Barrington asked that the inquiry be halted as the evidence presented by the council could not support a finding against her client, given that there was a conflict between Ms Whelan's evidence and that of all the hospital witnesses. The committee adjourned the hearing to a date to be announced, by which time it will have made a decision on Ms Barrington's application.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent