Alan Thawley ‘deeply shocked and hurt’ by Holles Street application

Hospital given permission to challenge plan for Hiqa inquiry into Malak Thawley’s death

Alan Thawley, husband of Malak Thawley, who died in May 2016 at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Collins Courts.

The husband of a woman who died at the National Maternity Hospital during surgery for an ectopic pregnancy is "deeply shocked and hurt" after the hospital sought to prevent a statutory inquiry ordered by the Minister for Health.

Malak Thawley (34), a teacher and a US citizen, died at the hospital on Holles Street on May 8th, 2016. Two weeks ago her widower, Alan Thawley, settled an action over her death for compensatory damages.

The court heard the doctor who carried out the surgery was an inexperienced junior surgeon and was not supervised.

The hospital was on Monday given permission by the High Court to challenge Mr Harris's decision to order the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) to carry out and inquiry under section 9(2) of the Health Act into patient safety issues there. The hospital claims the new inquiry would have a "chilling effect" on the operation of maternity services there.


Three reports

Paul Gallagher SC, for the hospital, said it was his client’s case that the Minister was acting outside his powers in ordering a new inquiry into the circumstances of the case given three other reports into the death of Ms Thawley had already taken place. One was carried out by the hospital itself, another by the HSE and there was also a coroner’s report.

Mr Thawley's solicitor Caoimhe Haughey said the latest action on the part of the National Maternity Hospital had come "without any warning".

“At the very least the board of the hospital owed Mr Thawley the simple courtesy and respect of notifying him in advance of the hospital`s application,” she said.

“Mr Thawley is fully supporting the Minister`s decision for a statutory enquiry subject to the inclusion of external expertise which is what he asked of the hospital when it announced its internal review in May 2016.

“The inclusion of external expertise was rejected by the hospital. It is interesting to see the hospital is now adopting a different attitude to issue of external expertise and only after Mr Thawley`s legal proceedings have concluded. Mr Thawley needs time to digest and consider the implications of to-day`s events. A detailed statement will be released in the coming days.”

‘Vulnerable’ time

Ms Haughey wrote to Mr Harris on January 24th noting that the proceedings against the hospital had concluded and saying it had been an “emotional and vulnerable” time for her client.

She said Mr Thawley wished to “meaningfully re-engage” with him and with his department as soon as possible, given the “unfortunate stalling of the progress that had been achieved up to the point of your announcement of the decision to proceed with the Hiqa investigation”.

Ms Haughey said one issue which Mr Thawley deemed “fundamentally vital and integral to any investigation is the inclusion of external medical experts in the fields of obstetrics, vascular surgery and anaesthesiology”.

Ms Haughey asked whether the Minister had considered consulting the Royal College of Gynaecologists in the UK.

The letter said Mr Thawley remained “passionately committed to his cause – shared by you – that Malak’s tragic, needless death must bring about change for the better and he wants to see that as soon as possible.”

Hiqa wrote to Mr Harris last November and said it believed the impact of a statutory investigation would be potentially counterproductive, leading to “the inevitable undermining of public confidence in national maternity services”.