Holles Street doctors sought ice from pub to help patient

Malak Thawley died during emergency operation when blood vessel was damaged

The investigation report into Malak Thawley’s death says the treating consultant requested ice to cool her head at 7.17pm on May 8th, 2016, and this was “sourced from [an] external location”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Doctors from the National Maternity Hospital asked a local pub for ice to use in a desperate attempt to save the life of a patient, it has emerged.

Up to three doctors rushed from Holles Street into the nearby bar looking for bags of ice to use during emergency treatment on Malak Thawley in May 2016.

Ms Thawley (35) died after one of her main blood vessels was accidentally damaged during routine surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. The medical team needed the ice to cool her brain as they fought to save her life.

"At first I thought it was a prank," the barwoman told The Irish Times, referring to the arrival in O'Connor's pub of a man wearing blue scrubs on a Sunday evening last May. "He said there had been an emergency in the hospital and he needed as much ice as I could give."


The woman filled a black plastic bag with ice as the man had no container. He left quickly in the direction of the hospital, 350m away. Shortly after, a woman in a white coat and another man in scrubs came in, also looking for ice. They said they were doctors from Holles Street. She filled two more black bags with ice and watched from the door as the pair ran down Lower Mount Street, towards Holles Street.

To cool head

The investigation report into Ms Thawley’s death says the treating consultant requested ice to cool her head at 7.17pm on May 8th and this was “sourced from [an] external location”. This was over two hours after the damage to her blood vessel.

The report does not identify the location but the barwoman later contacted Caoimhe Haughey, the Thawley family's solicitor, about the incident. "It was weeks later when I saw an article in the paper and realised that was what happened," the woman, who does not want to be identified, said.

“I’m a mother. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how that man feels after what happened,” the woman said of Ms Thawley’s husband, Alan.

The NMH has apologised to Mr Thawley for “shortcomings” in the care provided to his wife“which resulted in her untimely death,” and for the distress and suffering caused.

The report found she died after a blood vessel was accidentally cut by a pointed instrument used to create an opening for keyhole surgery. The cut was not recognised for several minutes and, when it was, it took another 15 minutes before she got emergency treatment.

The report is critical of a lack of experience and clinical leadership in managing the injury that occurred and says there was “sub-optimal communication” between members of the medical team.

Doubt over time

The ice required for cooling the patient’s head was available and applied by the consultant to cool Ms Thawley’s head at 7.19pm, two minutes after it was requested, the report states.

Ms Haughey expressed doubt that the ice would have been delivered from the pub within two minutes.

The report also suggests co-locating the NMH with a general hospital should be considered to better manage “rare cases such as this tragedy”.

Ms Haughey said the facts of Ms Thawley’s death needed to be kept separate and distinct from the current controversy over the proposed move of the NMH to St Vincent’s.

“The late Mrs Thawley did not die because of a lack of expertise and facilities of a general hospital. She died because the doctors in theatre at the time caused an injury and then they failed to stop the bleeding, which went on for an unacceptable period of time.”

The couple, who were both US citizens, were living in Ireland where Mr Thawley was working. Ms Thawley, a teacher, was originally from Syria.

An inquest into her death takes place at the Dublin City Coroner’s Court next month.

Holles Street hospital declined to comment on the case, citing patient confidentiality.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.