Widower accuses coroner of 'cover-up' in outburst at inquest into wife's death
THE widower of a woman who died four days after giving birth to her son shouted "shame on you" and alleged a cover-up after a coroner refused to commit to calling extra witnesses to her inquest.
Dhara Kivlehan (28) died from multi-organ failure on September 28, 2010, after suffering a severe strain of pre-eclampsia. She was airlifted from Sligo General to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital where she died.
An inquest hearing at Carrick-on-Shannon courthouse heard yesterday that a witness will state that medics in Sligo said "it's only a matter of time" as Ms Kivlehan was being transferred into an air ambulance.
Her husband Michael (34) arrived at the inquest an hour into the hearing yesterday and launched a verbal attack from the gallery over the witnesses being proposed by Coroner Eamon MacGowan.
"It's a bloody cover-up. A cover-up. My wife was Indian," Mr Kivlehan said. "I'm last on the list (of witnesses). Why is that? You don't want me to address the press here. I will not stand for this. It's a cover-up. Shame on you."
"The list of witnesses is reviewable and it will be reviewed by me up or down. I might add... my hope is to be reasonable to the parties," the coroner said.
The Kivlehan family have been in dispute with the coroner after he offered to hear evidence from six witnesses – two doctors from Sligo, two doctors from the Royal in Belfast, Mr Kivlehan and Dr Peter Boylan, the former Master of Holles Street and a consultant obstetrician.
The Kivlehans want to see the coroner follow Belfast Coroner Dr John Leckey, who had suggested 24 witnesses give evidence when the inquiry into the young mother's death was opened in the North.
Lawyers for Mr Kivlehan told the coroner his decision to call only six witnesses was bewildering and they threatened to challenge the decision in the High Court in Dublin.
"To say that the Kivlehan family are stunned and sickened by what they see as an extraordinarily restrictive approach on your part is in the nature of an understatement," solicitor Damien Tansey told the coroner.
He added: "The family are so concerned about the inquiry that is about to be embarked on, they are so concerned about its lack of thoroughness, its lack of comprehensiveness, they may well withdraw their request that the inquest happen."
Mr Tansey went on to accuse the coroner of shutting down the inquest.
He said: "How Dhara was allowed to develop Hellp Syndrome and how she was allowed to lie in Sligo General for four days before the true gravity of her situation was appreciated are questions of the utmost importance to the Kivlehan family and cannot be answered and addressed accurately by the mere six witnesses whom you have identified."
Mr McGowan will give his decision in three weeks.
Mrs Kivlehan's inquest is due for a full hearing from September 22 in Carrick-on-Shannon.
Her widower Michael and their son were awarded almost €1m damages late last year after the Health Service Executive apologised for shortcomings in the young mother's care.
Mrs Kivlehan was two weeks over her due date when she arrived at Sligo General Hospital on September 20 in labour.
However, the results of blood tests taken that afternoon – which showed "grossly abnormal liver function and grossly abnormal kidney function" – were not followed up by her doctors or reported back by the lab for another 12 hours.
Her son, Dior, was delivered the following morning.
The hearing was told two doctors in Sligo agreed that the emergency procedure should be carried to deliver the baby and then Mrs Kivlehan should be treated in intensive care.
The civil action last year heard she was instead transferred to a side room off the maternity ward for a day-and-a-half with no specialist care before being moved to ICU.