'I've had to fight to find out what happened to my wife'
A GRIEVING husband whose wife died just days after giving birth to their first child has said he has been "forced" to take legal proceedings to find out how she died.
Indian-born Dhara Kivlehan (29) – described in court as "more Irish than the Irish" – died at a Belfast hospital in September 2010, eight days after giving birth to their son Dior at Sligo Regional Hospital.
A request by the family for an inquest in the Republic was initially refused on legal grounds by the then Sligo/Leitrim coroner Dr Desmond Moran before the Attorney General ordered that a hearing should take place.
Last December the Health Service Executive (HSE) agreed to pay Dior and his dad Michael €800,000 in damages and "unreservedly" apologised to them. The agreement was reached without a hearing in the High Court.
Mr Kivlehan, from Dromahair in Co Leitrim, has been a full-time dad to his son since the death of his wife, a fashion designer who was a retail and sales manager with the clothing chain Next at their Sligo branch.
His solicitor Damian Tansey told the new Sligo/Leitrim coroner Eamonn McGowan at Carrick-on-Shannon court that the Kivlehan family is upset that whilst all doctors who treated Dhara at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital had provided statements, just four of the 12 doctors or consultants at Sligo Regional Hospital had done so.
"Soon it will be four years since Dhara's death and they have gone through hoops to get an inquisitorial process under way with a view to extracting answers," said Mr Tansey.
Mr Kivlehan (34) was accompanied at the hearing by Sean Rowlette, whose wife Sally died after giving birth at Sligo Regional Hospital last year.
Both women died from died from HELLP syndrome, a form of pre-eclampsia.
Outside court Mr Kivlehan said he and Mr Rowlette were supporting each other.
"Effectively Sean and I have had to fight to find out what happened to our wives," he said.
"We have had to take civil proceedings and we can't say much until they are over.
"This is my chance now to have an inquest so that my family and I can actually find out how my wife died.
"All we want is for things to be done correctly in our hospitals."
Asked about his son Dior, he said: "He's the twinkle in my eye. It has been hard but it is even harder when you hear about other cases which have happened since my wife died.
"We have our good days and our bad days."
He added: "Ironically it will be four years since my wife's death before the full inquest takes place. Savita (Halappanavar) and her family in Galway had an inquest within six months, God help them.
"We are looking for some sort of closure. I just want answers because up until now we have been silenced."
Earlier, Mr Tansey told the hearing that Dhara and Michael had met in London, moved back to Leitrim and got married and were planning a family together.
"She chose to live in Ireland. She was very happy here. They planned to have a family. They had their first child and then tragedy ensued in Sligo General Hospital," he said.
Mr Tansey claimed the death of Mrs Kivlehan had "uncanny similarities" to that of Savita Halappanavar.
However, this claim was objected to by counsel for the HSE, Adrienne Egan.
Yesterday's preliminary hearing was set to hear submissions from the family and the HSE over the witnesses who should be called.
Mr Tansey said Dhara's family were upset that whilst depositions had been provided by medical staff in Belfast "just four out of 12 doctors at our own hospital down the road in Sligo have done so".
Nurses and midwives at the hospital had provided depositions, he said.
His colleague Roger Murray, also representing the Kivlehans, told the court that the fact that some doctors at Sligo had since left should not be a hindrance to their appearing at an inquest.
"They have not fallen off the face of the Earth. They have to leave forwarding addresses when they leave a position and their whereabouts are well within the knowledge of the HSE and the personnel department," he said.
The solicitor also asked that crew from the Sligo 118 Rescue helicopter who transferred Mrs Kivlehan from Sligo to Belfast should be called as witnesses, saying they would have evidence of benefit to the hearing.
Dr McGowan adjourned the case until July 9 for directions on the list of witnesses, with a provisional full hearing date of September 22, four years to the day after Dhara was admitted to intensive care at Sligo Regional Hospital.