Taoiseach ‘very dissatisfied’ at hospital threat to take Minister to court

If Holles Street has ‘nothing to hide’ it should welcome inquiry into Malak Thawley’s death - Varadkar

Malak Thawley (34) was expecting her first baby at the time of her death at Holles Street on May 8th 2016.

The Government is "very disappointed and dissatisfied" that Holles Street hospital is threatening to take the Minister for Health to court to avoid an external inquiry into the death of Malak Thawley.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said "there should be an external inquiry" adding that rather than blocking it if the hospital has nothing to hide "they should welcome it".

Ms Thawley bled to death during surgery for an ectopic pregnancy in 2016 at the hospital and an inquest into her death returned a verdict of medical misadventure.

Mr Varadkar said the Government was considering legislation for mandatory inquests into maternal deaths and while “there are strong arguments in favour of a mandatory inquest in the case of every maternal death” it might not be appropriate in cases “where a family does not want one”.


He said Minister for Health Simon Harris had already announced that all deaths in maternity hospitals will be subject to an external review “which is necessary and welcome” and legislation is expected to be published this month.

“If it is published that month we can perhaps get it through the Houses sooner rather than later,” he said.

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly had called for the introduction of long-awaited legislation for mandatory inquests into maternal deaths.

She welcomed the independent review “but it is not enough and it is not a substitute for an inquest” because of questions around terms of reference, qualifications of the review and whether it would be capable of independent scrutiny.

Ms Daly said there were 27 maternal deaths in Ireland between 2011 and 2013 but only three inquests and she pointed out that the HSE had gone to court twice in the past three years "to prevent the truth coming out".

She added that the Portiuncula hospital report has still not been released. “Investigations were ongoing in seven out of the 19 maternity hospitals last year.”

The HSE took a case to prevent the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) publishing the Portlaoise hospital report, she said and now “Holles Street hospital is effectively taking the Minister (for Health) to court to stop an external investigation into Malak Thawley’s death”.

Ms Thawley “bled to death” in the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street in 2016, four years after a 31-year-old woman Nora Highland died following a massive haemorrhage during an emergency caesarean. There were insufficient emergency blood supplies in place and the coroner “believed that the 37 minute delay in getting a transfusion probably cost her her life”.

Ms Daly added that even though fridges were installed in theatres they were not sufficiently stocked when Ms Thawley “bled to death in the same hospital in 2016”.

She said “we’re hearing a lot lately that Ireland is one of the safest countries to give birth in but when something goes wrong, there’s no appetite to learn.

“It is a battle every time with the bereaved and stunned families on one side and the HSE lawyers on the other. It is a case of litigate, delay, deny. That is the HSE way.”

Ms Daly also highlighted maternal deaths in Sligo General Hospital. Five years ago Sally Rowlette died giving birth to her fourth child “as a result of a catastrophic mismanagement of HELLP syndrome, the exact same condition and reason Dhara Kivlehan died in the same hospital a few years earlier”.

She added that Ms Rowlette’s husband Sean Rowlette met the Taoiseach two years ago as minister for health and gave him a letter from their children saying they missed her every day and asking that he ensure it never happened to another mother.

“Since that meeting it has happened at least twice,” she said.

Mr Varadkar said he had met some of the families and “I know they still suffer every day from their loss and the traumatic events that occurred to them”.

He stressed that “Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world to give birth, both in terms of maternal and neonatal mortality”.

But that should not give rise to complacency of any way, he said, because they had to make sure the number of such deaths was minimised.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times