Belfast Telegraph

Trust's own lawyer said it was liable ... yet it took 16 years for an apology over Adam


The Belfast Health Trust failed to apologise and admit liability for the death of four-year-old Adam Strain for 16 years, despite its solicitor saying in 1997 the case could not be defended.

The detailed facts emerged yesterday during the ongoing inquiry in to hyponatraemia-related deaths.

During the proceedings, chaired by John O'Hara QC, the Department of Health provided its opening statement.

The hearing also focused on the historic issues of the cases, which span back to the 1990s.

Hyponatraemia describes an abnormally low level of sodium in the blood that can occur when fluid is not administered correctly.

Adam Strain, Claire Roberts, Lucy Crawford, Raychel Ferguson and Conor Mitchell all died in hyponatraemia-related incidents across Northern Ireland.

Raychel (9), from Derry, died at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital in June 2001 after receiving a dose of fluids at Altnagelvin Hospital.

Lucy, from Letterbreen, Co Fermanagh, was aged 17 months when she died in April 2000 after being given fluids at the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen.

Adam (4) died after being given fluids in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in 1995.

Documentation revealed that, following the inquest in to his death, the Belfast Trust's solicitor expressed his views in a letter on March 19, 1997.

Sent to a doctor, he said: "I believe, from a liability point of view, this case cannot be defended and this is based largely upon the information given by one of the independent experts retained by HM Coroner at the inquest."

However, it was not until October 17, 2013 that the trust provided Adam's mother with a full admission of liability and an apology.

It was also 16 years after Claire's death before the trust provided her parents with the open admission of liability and apology they sought.

Outlining the history of the cases, there were concerns about accountability and clinical guidelines within the trusts.

But during their opening arguments legal representatives for the Department of Health said they will be challenging a report by a medical expert that Northern Ireland at the time was "lagging behind" the rest of the UK.

David McMillen, QC for the department, said: "The sincere hope of the department is that this inquiry will move us towards a situation where mistakes in healthcare, if they can never be totally excluded, become increasingly rare. We owe these children, and their families no less."


The inquiry was set up by the then Health Minister Angela Smith, announced on November 1, 2004.

Hyponatraemia describes an abnormally low level of sodium in the blood that can occur when fluid is not administered correctly.

Belfast Telegraph


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