Belfast Telegraph

Parents in brave battle for Raychel

Editor's Viewpoint

For a parent to lose a child under any circumstances is a horrendous experience. Imagine how much more difficult the death is to accept when it is a result of a medical blunder as in the case of little Raychel Ferguson. And if that was not bad enough her grieving parents have been pushed to the limit in their attempts to find out who was to blame for their daughter's death and to gain some justice.

Unforgivably, it took the Western Health Trust 13 years to admit liability for the death of Raychel, who had been admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry for an appendicitis operation and who subsequently died from hyponatraemia, a swelling of the brain because of a low level of sodium in the blood. Raychel's parents have had to endure a public inquiry, a coroner's court and a police investigation to get to the bottom of the tragedy.

Now they have been given an out-of-court settlement of £40,000 – if they had fought for compensation in the courts the statutory limit would have been around £12,000 – but this is no victory. After all they have been through, money could not compensate the family for their trauma. We can only admire their courage in fighting for what they believe is right, and there is scarcely a person who would disagree with their arguments.

They want statutory limit on compensation for the death of a child changed and they are also seeking damages from the Western Board for the trauma they have endured for 13 years. There may be all kinds of legal rules to be overcome, but it would be a foolhardy person who would dismiss the couple's chances of success. As for the Western Board, it should hang its head in shame for taking so long to admit liability. The parents, quite rightly, point out that they did the correct thing when their daughter fell ill – they took her to hospital. Any fault thereafter was not of their making, but they suffered most.

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