Mother who died in maternity hospital had epilepsy

Woman’s newborn son, Darragh, found underneath his mother, also dies

Marie Downey who died in her room at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Her baby boy passed away two days later. He was four days old. Photograph: Facebook

Marie Downey who died in her room at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Her baby boy passed away two days later. He was four days old. Photograph: Facebook


The mother-of-three who died in tragic circumstances at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) on Monday and whose newborn son died on Tuesday, has been described as a “gorgeous girl” with “a heart of gold”.

Marie Downey was found dead on the floor of her single room on Monday morning. Her son Darragh was found underneath his mother. He died at the hospital on Tuesday evening.

A hospital source confirmed Ms Downey had epilepsy. One of the lines of inquiry the hospital’s investigation will look at is whether she may have had a seizure while breastfeeding her baby and fell out of the bed.

The Limerick native who lived in Kildorrery, Co Cork with her husband, Kieran, and other sons Sean and James, worked at Novartis Pharmaceutical Company in Ringaskiddy.

A postmortem was carried out on Ms Downey’s remains on Tuesday and a postmortem will be carried out on her baby on Thursday. The results of both will be included in a file that gardaí will prepare for an inquest at Cork City Coroner’s Court.

Full investigation

A hospital source said a full investigation would be carried out by its medical team, and management would look at any recommendations regarding changes in care and practices that follow from the investigation.

Fr Eamonn Kelleher, parish priest of Kildorrery, said it was “an awful tragedy” for the parish and in particular for the people of Knockanevin, a “close knit”community. “There is terrible sadness, that cross is on the shoulders of Kieran and the Downey family.”

Novartis Pharmaceutical described her as a “valued member of our team” and she would be “fondly remembered”.

A close family friend described the deaths as “unbelievable”. “She was a gorgeous girl. She had a heart of gold, she was very caring.”

Ms Downey’s parents, Jim and Helen Cullinane, from Ballyagran, Co Limerick, were said to be “trying to come to terms” with the deaths of their grandson and only daughter. “Her family are fantastic people, farming people, good people,” the source said.

Well known as an avid Limerick hurling supporter, Ms Downey had previously hurled with Castletown-Ballyagran camogie club. Limerick Camogie County chairwoman Liz Hennessy, paying tribute, offered their “condolences” to the families.

Ms Downey had been checked at 7am by nursing staff and all was well with her and her baby but when a medical team came on its rounds at 8am, it found she had fallen from the bed with her infant. Doctors tried to resuscitate her but she was pronounced dead some time later.

A spokesman for the South/South West Hospital Group confirmed the baby had died on Tuesday evening despite the best efforts of hospital staff to stabilise his condition. CUMH described the woman’s death as “ a tragic occurrence”.

Plans are being made for the two funerals, which are expected to be held in Ballyagran.