Wednesday 28 September 2016

Video exclusive: 'For 23 years we fought for answers but we got nothing' - parents of Jennifer Anna

Cathal McMahon

Published 14/05/2016 | 06:19

Stephen and Catherina McGarry
Stephen and Catherina McGarry
Jennifer Anna McGarry and mum Catherina. Picture courtesy of family
Catherina and Stephen McGarry

A grieving childless couple whose baby's spine was broken in a botched delivery will finally get an inquest - 24 years after her death.

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Catherina and Stephen McGarry’s daughter Jennifer Anna suffered a spinal injury that led to her death in a forceps assisted delivery in the Coombe Hospital in late 1991.

Some of the baby’s organs were later removed without their knowledge.

The couple, from Sallynoggin, South Dublin, subsequently suffered seven miscarriages and they never had another child. When they ultimately attempted to adopt they were told that they were too old.

Last year the Coombe hospital apologised to them and now we can reveal that Jennifer Anna’s inquest will finally be heard in the Dublin Coroner's Court on Monday.

Speaking at their home to Independent.ie, Catherina said there are still dozens of unanswered questions about their case.

Jennifer Anna McGarry with parents Stephen and Catherina. Picture Courtesy of Family
Jennifer Anna McGarry with parents Stephen and Catherina. Picture Courtesy of Family

"For 23 years we fought for answers but we got nothing. Our daughter was ripped from me when I should have had a Caesarean section.

"They then took her organs without our permission. We only buried a shell."

Stephen added: “We can’t understand why we haven’t gotten an inquest until now. Under the coroner’s act I have pinpointed three reasons why the coroner should have been notified immediately after Jennifer Anna’s death.

“No one knew what was wrong with Jennifer at the time of her death, that was reason alone to have an inquest.”

Catherina was admitted to the Coombe on November 27th, 1991, after going into labour with the couple’s first child. The labour took longer than expected and the then 26-year-old claims she was told she would undergo a Caesarean the following day.

Instead, a registrar delivered the child using a forceps. This doctor - who has since moved to the UK and was named in the 2015 Coombe report as Registrar of Obstetrics H - described the birth as a routine delivery.

In their interview with investigators for the 2015 report, the parents said Mrs McGarry “felt like her whole insides were being pulled out”. According to the parents, the doctor said: “Oh s***, I think she’s gone.” The HSE report said: “The baby appeared to be asphyxiated with forceps marks on her face and skull.”

Jennifer Anna was brought to the specialist-care baby unit, where she died in her mother’s arms on Valentines Day 1992.

The couple tried many more times to have children but suffered seven miscarriages. About 10 years ago they attempted to adopt but were told they were too old.

Mr McGarry said: “The damage that was done to Catherina destroyed her. We have had no lives since this happened to her.”

Speaking ahead of Monday’s inquest Catherina has called for a garda investigation.

A review, carried out by former master of the Coombe Dr Chris Fitzpatrick, attempted to contact 35 members of staff involved in the care of Mrs McGarry and her daughter but did not succeed in speaking to any of those present at the delivery.

The hospital admitted Catherina should have had a Caesarean section at an earlier point in her delivery. This would have resulted in her baby, Jennifer Anna, not being delivered by forceps vaginally and thereby “most likely” avoided the injury that occurred to her spinal cord and caused her death, according to an official report.

Jennifer Anna’s death at the age of 2½ months in February 1992 should have been reported to the coroner so it could be investigated, the report by former master of the Coombe Dr Chris Fitzpatrick said.

He acknowledged the death of Jennifer Anna should have been reported and then investigated. Consent should have been obtained from the couple in relation to the retention of organs and they should have been notified of the audit, he said.

The couple have taken their case to a solicitor but no proceedings resulted and now they are statute barred from receiving compensation. Pleas for meetings with former Health Ministers Leo Varadkar and James Reilly as well as with Taoiseach Enda Kenny have been flatly rejected.

The issue has been raised in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin and Richard Boyd Barrett (PBP) with both deputies backing the McGarry’s calls for a criminal investigation.

A spokesperson for the Coombe said it “cannot comment on any individual case, past or present”.

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