Family Settle Claim for the Failure to Treat pre-Eclampsia

A family has settled a compensation claim for the failure to treat pre-eclampsia that resulted in the wrongful death of a wife and mother.

On 20th September 2010, Dhara Kivlehan (29) was admitted to Sligo General Hospital for the birth of her first child. At the time of her admission, Dhara was two weeks passed her due date and exhibiting symptoms consistent with pre-eclampsia – high blood pressure, fluid retention around the feet and ankles (oedema) and abnormal quantities of protein in her urine.

Blood tests conducted on Dhara indicated that she had abnormal liver and kidney functions (further indicators of pre-eclampsia), but the results of the blood test were not communicated to Dhara´s doctors for twelve hours. The morning following her admission, Dhara gave birth to her son – Dior – and was transferred to a side room.

It was during the thirty-six hours that Dhara spent in the side room that her condition deteriorated. She was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at Sligo General Hospital at 4.45pm on the day after giving birth to her son; but, at 11.00pm that night, Dhara´s condition became critical. She was air-lifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where she died of multiple organ failure four days later.

Dhara´s husband – Michael Kivlehan from Dromahair, County Sligo – made a compensation claim for the failure to treat pre-eclampsia; alleging that the treatment Dhara received in the side room had been inadequate due to a lack of communication and a failure to act. Sligo General Hospital denied that there had been a failure to acknowledge the significance of Dhara´s deterioration or to treat her condition appropriately, and a date for a High Court hearing was scheduled.

Shortly before Michael´s claim for the failure to treat pre-eclampsia was due to be heard, the Health Service Executive admitted that there had been shortcomings in the care provided for Dhara at Sligo General Hospital and a settlement of compensation was negotiated. As part of the settlement, Michael insisted that an apology to the family be read aloud in court.

Consequently, at Dublin High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard the circumstances of Dhara´s wrongful death and that Michael´s claim for the failure to treat pre-eclampsia had been settled for €800,000. The apology from the HSE was then read out to the family. Before closing the hearing Judge Irvine expressed her sympathy to Michael and Dior and criticised the HSE for “holding out until almost the bitter end” before admitting liability and for causing the family unnecessary distress.