Reporting of inquest into mother’s death ‘extremely important’

Karen McEvoy (24) died on Christmas Day last year one week after giving birth

Karen McEvoy and her partner Barry Kelly

Karen McEvoy and her partner Barry Kelly

 

Media coverage of the forthcoming inquest into the death of a young mother, a week after giving birth, would be “extremely important” for all women accessing healthcare services, the coroner who will hold it has said.

Kildare county coroner Dr Denis Cusack, speaking in Naas on Monday about plans for an inquest into the death of Karen McEvoy (24), referred to the 2013 inquest into Savita Halappanavar’s death.

Ms Halappanavar died in Galway in October 2012 from sepsis following a miscarriage, during which she had asked for an abortion. She was refused as her 17-week-old foetus still had a heartbeat.

The initial pathology report into Ms McEvoy’s death says she too died of sepsis. She died in Naas General Hospital on December 25th, 2018, having given birth to a girl a week earlier in the Coombe hospital, Dublin.

Ms McEvoy and her partner, Barry Kelly, had two young sons already at home in Co Kildare.

‘Intrinsically important’

“Maternal deaths are rare, that’s in numbers,” said Dr Cusack. “But each maternal death is intrinsically important to their families and to all women availing of healthcare services and to society at large . . . It is extraordinarily important that the media do report these matters.

“We have seen previous inquests, including into the death of Savita Halappanavar by my colleague Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin in Galway which was extremely important in highlighting issues. I don’t know if there will be issues here, but that is what we must look at.”

Dr Cusack set October 14th and November 25th for preliminary hearings, with the full inquest likely early in 2020.

He took issue with The Irish Times’ reporting on Ms McEvoy’s death, on January 31st, 2019, under the headline: “Woman (24) who died a week after giving birth had sepsis, says coroner”.

The article was based on the initial pathology report finding she had died as a result of “multiorgan failure with septicaemia”. It has been provided by Dr Cusack to Mr Kelly through his solicitor.

Dr Cusack said the article was “incorrect” as neither he nor his court had delivered a verdict on the medical cause of Ms McEvoy’s death. He said the report caused distress to other members of Ms McEvoy’s family and had also raised the issue of the “unauthorised disclosure of detailed information in relation to the deceased.

“I am putting the media on notice that if any confidential material is published before the hearing, that there will be consequences.

“It is extraordinarily important that the media do report these matters, but it must be at the right time and accurately . . . and must not undermine the integrity of the coroner’s process.”