Belfast Telegraph

Coroner rules Belfast girl's death 'totally avoidable' and caused by hospital treatment

Alan and Jennifer Roberts hold pictures of daughter Claire outside court
Alan and Jennifer Roberts hold pictures of daughter Claire outside court
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A coroner has ruled the death of a young girl at the centre of the hyponatraemia inquiry was due to the treatment she received in a Belfast hospital.

Alan and Jennifer Roberts were speaking after an inquest found that the death of nine-year-old Claire at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children had been “totally avoidable”.

Coroner Joe McCrisken said that on balance an overdose of fluids administered to the schoolgirl had contributed to her death.

Her parents said afterwards they had a "clear message" for the Belfast Health Trust and the implicated doctors who treated their daughter in October 1996 that they should "hang their heads in shame”.

Claire, from Rochester Road in east Belfast, died from hyponatraemia – which is caused by lack of sodium in the bloodstream – having been admitted to hospital two days earlier with symptoms of vomiting.

Speaking afterwards outside Laganside Courthouse on Friday morning, the Roberts family said the public can have “no confidence in patient safety" in Northern Ireland.

Mr Roberts said that after a 22-year wait the inquest had finally delivered the truth about how their daughter died, which had been the subject of an earlier probe in 2006.

The Hyponatraemia Inquiry, headed by Sir John O’Hara QC, ruled in 2012 that Claire’s death had been preventable and ordered a new inquest, which started on Monday.

Sir John ruled that medical professionals were involved in a cover-up following the tragedy.

Tragedy: Claire Roberts
Tragedy: Claire Roberts

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