News Courts

Sunday 21 September 2014

Battle goes on for dad whose wife died after giving birth

Sarah Stack, Ed Carty and Alan O'Keeffe

Published 04/12/2013 | 02:30

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Michael Kivlehan speaking to the media outside the Four Courts in Dublin. Inset: Michael and Dhara, they met in London in 2002

THE heartbroken family of an Indian woman who died a week after giving birth to her first child is facing further legal battles after receiving an apology from the HSE.

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Dhara Kivlehan was just 28 when she died from multi-organ failure in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital on September 28, 2010, after being airlifted from Sligo General Hospital.

Her family has been engaged in a marathon legal fight with the health authorities for the past three years.

They were awarded almost €1m in damages and an apology from the HSE yesterday. But their fight goes on as grieving husband Michael Kivlehan and other family members want full disclosure of the circumstances of her tragic death.

The refusal of the authorities here to hold an inquest into her death will be the focus of their ongoing legal struggle.

Her family and their legal team claim that the agreement of the Northern Ireland authorities to hold an inquest is insufficient, as witnesses cannot be legally compelled to attend.

They are demanding an inquest be held in Sligo, where the attendance of witnesses would be mandatory.

Michael and Dhara met in London in 2002 where Dhara was studying fashion and Michael was working. They moved to Co Leitrim and married in 2005, planning to bring up a family in the county where Michael himself was reared.

He fought back tears yesterday as he mentioned the couple's darling son Dior, who has "his mother's brains" and how the little boy was "a healthy and happy lad".

In a prepared statement, he said: "Our battle for justice must continue. Three years on from Dhara's death, we still await an inquest.

"We are broken-hearted that our calls for an inquest in this country have, to date, been declined by the authorities. Many unanswered questions need to be addressed and the only forum to establish the truth is a full inquest in this jurisdiction.

"Dhara's memory deserves an inquest and it is an ongoing breach of our family rights for our calls for justice to remain unheeded."

Michael has been supported in his legal struggle by his parents, Michael Snr and Susan, who also assist in the upbringing of Dior.

SHORTCOMINGS

Family solicitor Damien Tansey told the Irish Independent that if necessary they would seek a judicial review of a decision by the Attorney General not to direct the coroner in Sligo to hold an inquest.

In the High Court in Dublin yesterday, the HSE apologised to her husband and the extended family for shortcomings in the management of her care at Sligo, where Dior was delivered.

Dhara was airlifted from Sligo General Hospital after suffering from a severe variant of pre-eclampsia called Hellp (haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelets) to receive specialist care in Belfast.

The family alleged the delivery of Dhara's child was negligently delayed and inadequate urgency and speciality was applied to her case. The decision to transfer her to Belfast was "too little, too late".

The legal action was settled in front of Judge Mary Irvine, who criticised the delay by the HSE in admitting liability.

The judge said it was the third case in a week where the HSE had held out until almost the bitter end, causing great distress to a family.

She approved a settlement of the action for €790,000. An undisclosed sum has also been agreed in an action taken by Michael. It is believed to be a substantial six-figure sum.

"The HSE unreservedly apologises to the Kivlehan and Sandhu family for the short- comings in relation to the management and care of Dhara Kivlehan at Sligo Regional Hospital," Adrienne Egan, a barrister for the HSE, told the court.

"The HSE confirms that lessons have been learned from the tragic outcome."

Irish Independent

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