Tuesday 20 March 2018

Husband of woman who died during surgery for ectopic pregnancy to sue National Maternity Hospital after 'cascade of negligence'

Alan and Malak Thawley
Alan and Malak Thawley

Tim Healy

A man whose wife died during surgery for an ectopic pregnancy at the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) Dublin has sued in the High Court.

Malak Thawley was 34 years of age, a teacher and a US citizen who was expecting her first baby with her husband Alan when she died at the Holles Street hospital on May 8, 2016.

The court was told  by Mr Thawley's counsel, Liam Reidy, what happened was  was a “cascade of negligence” and “it was one negligent act after another.”

Exemplary damages are also being sought in the case.

Mr Reidy said  the doctor who carried out the surgery was an inexperienced  junior surgeon  and was not supervised.

Counsel told how inept was the entire process was illustrated in the fact that when they decided to cool Mrs Thawley’s brain with ice, two doctors were sent across the road to a pub to get ice as there was none in the hospital.

The fact the Minister for Health directed a statutory inquiry in to the case gave no comfort to Mrs Thawley’s widower, Mr Thawley, a data scientist, can’t get over his wife’s death and has “severe hopelessness,” he said.

The situation had caused a "catastrophic disturbance" of Mr Thawley's psychiatric well being and he is not likely to recover, he said.

Malak Thawley died in the National Maternity Hospital a year ago during emergency surgery for ectopic pregnancy
Malak Thawley died in the National Maternity Hospital a year ago during emergency surgery for ectopic pregnancy

Mr Thawley (31) Brusna Cottages, Blackrock, Dublin, has sued the NMH over the death of his wife, who was originally from Dallas.

It is claimed that Mrs Thawley suffered a laceration to the surface of her aorta. There was allegedly complete mismanagement of the major vascular injury and of Mrs Thawley's deteriorating condition, culminating in the loss of opportunity to save her life.

It is also claimed there was a failure to have vascular clamps available on site at the hospital for emergencies and a failure to have a red phone installed in theatre for use in emergencies.

Mr Thawley has also sued for nervous shock. He says his plans and dreams for their future had been annihilated.

The case is before the court for assessment of damages only.

On Friday, the NMH apologised for the events which lead to the death of Mrs Thawley.

Eoin McCullough SC, for the hospital, extended deepest condolences to Mr Thawley and apologised for the events which led to her death.

When legal proceedings were were issued in  January last year, a letter admitting liability  by the hospital was issued the next day along with an apology.

The National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street
The National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street

An internal inquiry was also set up, counsel said.

Earlier, opening the case, Mr Reidy SC said the Thawleys had been profoundly happy and excited when she became pregnant. As a surprise gift her husband arranged a scan at six weeks.

At the scan, they were told to got to the NMH for advice about the ectopic pregnancy.

An ultra sound confirmed the ectopic pregnancy.

Mr Thawley he said had Googled ectopic pregnancy and had seen it could be treated with certain medicine but, counsel said, he was told that because the foetal sac had a heartbeat the only option was a surgical intervention.

The couple felt they should follow the advice.

Counsel said to this day Mr Thawley regrets the decision made, but the couple were reassured it was a routine procedure which would take 30 minutes.

Mrs Thawley was taken to theatre at 4pm and at 5.30pm a nurse told the husband a lot of blood  was found in the abdomen.  At 6.30 pm, a doctor told him she had lost ten units of blood “but they were dealing with it.”

Counsel said Mr Thawley felt he was not being told the full  picture. At 7.30pm, Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the NMH, told him the situation was very serious and doctors were doing everything they could.

Dr Mahony said there was "a chance your wife could die".

About 20 minutes later, she returned with a specialist surgeon and said ‘Malak is dead.”

Counsel said Mr Thawley was told a trocar had been inserted in the abdomen and it had torn the aorta.

Mr Reidy said Mr Thawley remembered saying "Are you telling me it was a mistake" and the surgeon said yes it was medical misadventure.

Counsel said Mr Thawley was in a state of shock and disbelief.

The case resumes on Tuesday.

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