Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Probe into mum's death widens: Irish coroner agrees to more witnesses for inquest of childbirth woman

Dhara Kivlehan
Dhara Kivlehan

A coroner has bowed to pressure and offered to almost treble the number of witnesses for an inquest into the death of a woman who died in Northern Ireland days after giving birth in the Republic.

Dhara Kivlehan (28), who was originally from India, died from multi-organ failure in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital on September 28, 2010 after suffering a severe strain of pre-eclampsia. She had been airlifted there four days earlier from Sligo General Hospital. A preliminary hearing has been told that medics in Sligo said "it's only a matter of time" when she was being transferred to the Royal.

Widower Michael Kivlehan (34) accused the coroner in Leitrim, Eamon MacGowan, of presiding over a cover-up at a preliminary hearing last month after he initially said he would only call six medics. The coroner has now revised his plans – offering to hear evidence from 17 witnesses and asking for recommendations – after family lawyers threatened to challenge him in the High Court in Dublin.

Twelve doctors and seven midwives were involved in Mrs Kivlehan's care in Sligo, as well as a number of doctors and nurses in Belfast. Mr Kivlehan's lawyers, Callan Tansey based in Sligo, said the development was a positive step forward. The inquest is due to begin on September 22.

Mr MacGowan originally offered to hear from two doctors from Sligo, two doctors from the Royal in Belfast, Mr Kivlehan and expert witness Dr Peter Boylan, the former master of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin and a consultant obstetrician.

The hearing was moved to the Republic amid concerns that medics from Sligo could not be compelled to give evidence north of the border and after Irish Attorney General Maire Whelan intervened to ask Belfast coroner John Leckey if he would agree to a change in jurisdiction.

Dr Boylan gave evidence as an expert witness in the high-profile inquest into the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died in hospital in Galway in 2012 after a miscarriage and blood poisoning.

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