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A tragedy no parents deserve

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 24/02/2016

Alex McCartney
Alex McCartney

Every parent who reads our report today on the inquest into the tragic death of seven-month-old Alex McCartney will think that there but for the grace of God goes any one of us.

Alex's mum had popped out of the bathroom for a few moments as the baby sat in his chair in the bath with his two-year-old sister and when she returned, having been alerted by the screams of the older child, Alex was submerged in a few inches of water.

The baby never regained consciousness and died in his mother's arms in hospital four days later.

It was a tragedy which will haunt the parents for the rest of their lives and it does, as the coroner pointed out, show the wisdom of never leaving a child unattended in a bath, even for the shortest of periods.

In the cold logical forum of a courtroom it is a warning that seems obvious and one that should be heeded at all times. But that does not take into account the pressures of everyday life on parents, especially mums of young children, who try to balance the Herculean task of looking after their children with the everyday demands of life, such as - in this instance - the decision to just nip downstairs to boil a kettle.

It is a task that many will have performed countless times without any harm coming to anyone. However, such is the fickle nature of life that it only takes a split second for things to go disastrously wrong and for tragedy to occur.

It is impossible to comprehend the trauma that this baby's parents went through as they tried to revive him. They must have been on the edge of complete panic as their frantic resuscitation efforts failed to gain a response and then they had to endure the further agony of watching the baby hooked up to life-support equipment in hospital, praying and hoping that a miracle would occur.

This tragedy is a horrific reminder of the dangers that lurk in ordinary household activities, dangers that can strike at any moment. How often has any parent left a young child unattended for a few moments to carry out some mundane task? The truthful answer is probably countless times and always without any harm being caused. Every parent will empathise with the mum in this case and they will stand in awe at the strength of the couple in agreeing - in the midst of their own agony - to donate their baby's organs to save the lives of other babies in desperate need.

Belfast Telegraph

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