Minister asks for two reports before decision on Malak Thawley inquiry

Dáil told family of woman who died believes Holles Street review ‘shambolic attempt to hide facts’

The late Malak Thawley with her husband, Alan. File photograph: Facebook

Minister for Health Simon Harris will make a decision about whether to hold an independent investigation into the death of Malak Thawley when he receives two expert reports he has commissioned.

Mr Harris said in the Dáil he had asked the clinical lead of the National Women and Infants’ Programme Dr Peter McKenna to examine the coroner’s report and that of the National Maternity Hospital and to give an opinion on the “appropriateness of the clinical reviews which have been undertaken to date”.

He had also asked HSE national director of quality assurance and verification Patrick Lynch to examine how the hospital conducted the investigation into Ms Thawley's death.

“I want to be assured that the review methodology was appropriate, and that the review was undertaken in line with best practice.”


The Minister said he had written to Ms Thawley’s husband Alan through his solicitors to alert him to his actions. “When these reports are to hand, I will be in a position to make a decision,” he said.

He told Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers he would be happy to meet Mr Thawley but believed he should also meet Dr McKenna who was reviewing the case.

Mr Harris stressed he was “considering that request with the seriousness it rightly deserves”.

Ms Thawley, a 35-year-old teacher from Dallas, USA died due to a tear in the abdominal aorta during the course of surgery for an ectopic pregnancy on May 8th, 2016.

An inquest into her death recorded a verdict of medical misadventure which highlighted a number of issues. Vascular clamps were not available at Holles Street and were sent there from the Blackrock Clinic with a garda escort.

Staff members also crossed the road to get bags of ice from a pub during an emergency effort to save Mrs Thawley’s life.

Mr Chambers raised the issue on behalf of the family.

He said there were contradictions between the internal hospital inquiry and facts outlined by the hospital and where serious adverse incidents occur in hospitals, they should not be allowed to investigate themselves.

Mr Chambers said the family believed that “crucial, vital and extremely revealing new facts, incidents and events have only now come to light”.

He said the family believe the internal hospital review was a “shambolic attempt to hide crucial facts and salvage reputations”.

Mr Chambers asked why Mr Thawley had to learn in a public forum that there was no blood in the lab, not enough blood in the theatre and that his wife’s blood group was not cross-matched.

He said other questions included why there was not enough staff available and why only junior staff to treat Ms Thawley when she was dying. He asked why there was no consultant on site and why did senior medical staff have their phones off or switched to the silent.

The Minister said his department “takes very seriously the need to improve patient safety and specifically the need to improve the management of incidents”.

He added: “I have directed the newly established National Patient Safety Office to lead this work through new legislation, policy development and the development of a patient safety surveillance system.”

“I should also mention that I have recently approved new HIQA Standards on the Conduct of Reviews of Patient Safety Incidents and these will be launched shortly.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times