Hospital apologises for young mother’s ‘completely preventable’ death from sepsis a week after birth of third child

A hospital has apologised for the “failings in care” for a young mother who died of sepsis on Christmas Day three years ago.

Karen McEvoy was only 24 and had given birth to her third child at the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin just a week before.

Her family, including her partner Barry Kelly and their children Toby (3), Jake (6), and Ruby (2), today settled their High Court actions over her death.

Speaking afterwards outside the Four Courts, Mr Kelly said Karen was an amazing young woman and mother.

“Her death was completely preventable had she been properly treated and cared for by the Coombe Hospital. Instead, she was wrongly diagnosed with sciatica when in fact she had sepsis,” he said.

Mr Kelly, who was engaged to Ms McEvoy at the time of her death, added: “No amount of money will ever change anything for myself and our three children.”

Flanked by his legal team Esther Earley BL and solicitor Niamh O’Brien, he said: “Hopefully our loss will increase the awareness of sepsis in maternity hospitals in the country.”

Ms McEvoy from Blessington, Co Wicklow, gave birth to her third child Ruby on December 18, 2018 but became ill and complained of lower back and abdominal pain in the days after. She died on Christmas Day 2018, having developed maternal sepsis and septic shock secondary to infection.

The letter of apology to Mr Kelly from the master of the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Professor Michael O’Connell, was read to the High Court. It expressed sincere apologies to Mr Kelly and his three children “for our failings in care afforded to Ms McEvoy at this hospital on December 23, 2018”.

It added: “I fully accept that these failings should not have happened. I can’t begin to imagine the consequences of Karen’s sad loss on you, Jake, Toby, Ruby, your extended family and Karen’s family.

“We in the Coombe are truly sorry for the distress that Karen’s death has caused.”

Liability was admitted in the cases and the settlements in the actions over Ms McEvoy’s death and for nervous shock were reached after mediation.

The details of the settlements are confidential but the court heard very substantial compensation was involved.

The family’s counsel, Richard Kean SC, told the court liability was admitted in the tragic case. He said it was a “calamitous event” in the lives of the Kellys and McEvoys and Mr Kelly had been left without the woman he loved, whom he planned to marry.

“It is an appalling tragedy and our experts would say that if Karen got a modicum of treatment she would have made an uneventful recovery,” counsel said.

Approving the settlements, which include the statutory mental distress payment of €35,000, Mr Justice Paul Coffey conveyed his deepest sympathy to the families on their tragic loss.

Karen’s son, Jake Kelly of Redbog, Blessington, Co Wicklow, had through his father sued the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Dublin.

The six-year old boy had sued on his own behalf and on behalf of his family including his brother Toby (3) and two-year-old Ruby and extended family.

Ms McEvoy was admitted to the Coombe Hospital on December 18, 2018 and she had her baby girl, Ruby just before 6am. Mother and baby were discharged from hospital the next day but Karen became increasingly unwell.

On December 23, she went back to the Coombe with her baby daughter for routine screening of the baby and it was claimed she relayed her own complaints and was advised to attend the hospital emergency department.

She attended the emergency department complaining of severe back and abdominal pain and feeling generally unwell. It was claimed Ms McEvoy was not admitted to hospital and she was discharged without her condition having been diagnosed.

On Christmas Day, Ms McEvoy’s condition was very grave and she was transferred by ambulance to Naas General Hospital. She arrived at the hospital after midday and died before 4pm from multi-organ failure with septicaemia due to an infection.

It was claimed, among other things, there was a failure to provide any adequate treatment to Ms McEvoy and that she was caused to contract the Group A streptococcus infection.

There was also an alleged failure to heed complaints by Ms McEvoy prior to her discharge on December 19 and a failure to carry out an accurate assessment or investigation of her prior to her discharge.