THE heartbroken parents of a two-year-old boy with haemophilia told how they encountered a "wall of silence" as they sought answers into his death at a children's hospital.
For seven years, Stephen and Jean Nowlan, from Saggart, Co Dublin, had just one question for medics involved in the care of their son Pierce at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin: "How did this happen?"
Yesterday, the hospital issued an apology to the family for "the failures in the care of Pierce".
Pierce died in the arms of his mother three days after his second birthday.
An artery had been punctured during a procedure to have a device inserted into his chest to allow him have regular injections of a blood-clotting agent for his blood disorder.
At the steps of the Four Courts, Mr Nowlan wrapped a comforting arm around his wife as she told of their long struggle to get answers from the hospital following their son's death on October 14, 2004.
"It has taken seven years, a High Court action and the Coroner's Act to be amended to finally get the answer, an admission of liability and an apology," Mrs Nowlan said.
"As grieving parents, we should not have had to meet a wall of silence and a culture of denial from the hospital.
"We put our trust in Crumlin hospital and they failed us and our son Pierce," she said, adding they will continue to miss him for the rest of their lives.
"But, if the hospital has learned that it needs to improve its procedures and how it provides information to grieving families, at least something positive will have come out of this terrible tragedy," she said.
Mrs Nowlan said the family intended to close the matter by making a complaint to the Medical Council.
Yesterday, in an apology read out in the High Court, Dublin, before Mr Justice John Quirke, the hospital said it "deeply regrets and apologises to Mr and Mrs Nowlan and their family for the failures in the care of Pierce".
Aggravated damages were paid to the family but the amount was not disclosed.
Mr Nowlan, a credit manager, and Mrs Nowlan, a recruitment consultant, who now have a two-year-old daughter, had brought proceedings against the HSE and the hospital.
Pierce was admitted to the hospital on October 10, 2004 -- the eve of his second birthday --- to have a device inserted into one of his veins.
His parents said this was an elective procedure and claimed they were told it was routine and not informed of any possible complications.
The following day attempts were made to insert the device but the third attempt resulted in an arterial puncture. It was ultimately planted in his left jugular vein. His condition deteriorated that evening and clotting factors and blood were administered before he went into cardiac arrest.
He was transferred to intensive care where he was declared dead on October 14. In their claim before the court, the parents alleged the hospital owed a duty of care to properly inform them of the risks involved in inserting the device in a child with haemophilia.
They claimed the failure to properly insert the device without puncturing an artery led to the child suffering severe injury and loss of life.