Medical misadventure verdict over death of five-day-old

Family of baby Darragh Byrne critical of failings of Coombe maternity hospital in 2013

Dublin City Coroner’s Court has returned a verdict of medical misadventure at an inquest into the death of a baby boy at the Coombe maternity hospital in February 2013.

The hospital agreed at the inquest to carry out a review of the death of Darragh Byrne, who died five days after being delivered by emergency caesarean section. He was unresponsive at birth.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said he will write to the hospital about a number of issues raised by lawyers for Darragh's parents, Maree Butler and Eoin Byrne, from Portlaoise.

Sara Antoniotti, for the family, had asked the coroner to add riders to his verdict in relation to the training of Coombe staff in monitoring the fetal heartbeat and the carrying out of a review into the baby's death.


Riders were also sought in relation to the circumstances in which a fetal scalp electrode is attached to monitor babies during delivery and the arrangements for staff cover in the hospital.

Ms Antoniotti alleged there was no qualified member of staff available to perform an emergency caesarean section on Ms Butler for 20 minutes, because the consultant obstetrician was in theatre and his cover was a first-year registrar not yet trained to carry out the operation.

Ms Butler was 33 years old and 35 weeks pregnant when her waters broke on February 14th, 2013. She arrived at the Coombe an hour later.

She was transferred to the labour ward early the following morning but progress was deemed slow and oxytocin, a drug used to speed up labour, was administered.

The family alleges the drug was administered to dangerous levels and that a cardiotocograph (CTG) scan of the baby’s heartbeat was unreadable from around 11am on the day.

Dr Farrell said he would look at the protocols in operation in the hospital and the use of oxytocin and would liaise with the Coombe as requested by the family.

He gave the cause of death as multi-organ failure due to Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), or oxygen deprivation to the brain, around the time of birth.

The hospital, which declined to comment on the inquest findings, has apologised to the family for the failings in the care of baby Darragh.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times