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Hyponatremia Inquiry: Family calls for answers on death of Conor (15) in hospital

Conor Mitchell
Conor Mitchell
Justice John O’Hara QC

By Rebecca Black

The family of a teenage boy whose sudden death was looked into as part of the Hyponatremia Inquiry have said the reason he died has yet to be explained to them.

Conor Mitchell (15) from Lurgan was admitted to Craigavon Area Hospital in May 2003 before being transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where he died.

His family spoke out last night to reveal they have still not received either an explanation for the failings in Conor’s treatment, nor a genuine apology.

The final report following the Hyponatremia Inquiry was published earlier this week following a number of delays.

It found the deaths of four Northern Ireland children — Adam Strain (4), Claire Roberts (9), Raychel Ferguson (9) and Lucy Crawford (17 months) could have been avoided and doctors covered up failures in patient care.

The inquiry also examined specific issues arising from the treatment of Conor Mitchell in May 2003.

Relating to Conor, the report found there was a “potentially dangerous variation in care and treatment afforded to young people at Craigavon Hospital”.

In total, the inquiry made 96 recommendations including the establishment of a duty of candour on medical professionals “to tell patients and their families about major failures in care and to give a full and honest explanation”.

The Belfast, Southern and Western health trusts said they “unreservedly apologise” to the five families.

An inquest into Conor’s death in 2004 found that on the balance of probabilities the 15-year-old, who suffered from cerebral palsy, had had a number of seizures before a fit that proved to be fatal, concluding that the teenager had died of brain-stem failure caused by a cerebral oedema.

Last night Conor’s family issued a statement via their lawyer to say they are still waiting for answers.

They thanked inquiry chair Mr Justice O’Hara and his team for conducting a “compassionate and professional Inquiry” which “exhaustively investigated all the issues within their remit”.

However, they said the inquiry was not able to look at all the issues around Conor’s death.

“Conor was a beautiful child who lived life to the full. His disability did not define him in life and will not define him in death. The decisions made in Craigavon Hospital leading to his death and the decisions not to treat his death properly until required to by this Inquiry are all matters that are still unexplained,” they said.

“The Inquiry could not look at all the issues in Conor’s treatment as it did not come under their Terms of Reference.

“Conor’s family repeat their thanks and gratitude to the Inquiry, its Chairman, the legal and medical advisers and the support staff who have worked to achieve the Report, for all that they have done and uncovered through their efforts.

“Conor’s family have still never received any explanation for many of the failings in Conor’s treatment.

“They received a less than fulsome acknowledgement and limited apology at the very last minute which they still believe was intended to prevent a public examination of any issues. They do not believe this was a genuine apology and the silence which has followed is telling.”

The statement went on to described the findings of the inquiry report as “shocking”.

“The findings in the Report about the lack of training of staff, the inconsistent treatment of children, the deliberate mis-information provided and the lack of proper leadership are shocking,” they said.

“While the improvement in Craigavon noted by the Inquiry is to be welcomed it still falls short of what is needed.

“To date no-one has given any explanation to Conor’s family for the treatment he received and to provide them with any answers to the many questions which still remain unanswered. The proof of the assertions that the Trusts and Health Service have noted the failings and will take the Recommendations on board is yet to be seen.”

Belfast Telegraph


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