Husband sues over death of pregnant wife at National Maternity Hospital

A man whose wife died during surgery for an ectopic pregnancy at the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin has sued in the High Court, writes Ann O'Loughlin.

Malak Thawley was 35 years of age, a teacher and a US citizen who was expecting her first baby with her husband Alan when she died at Holles Street on May 8, 2016.

The High Court was today told by Mr Thawely’s Counsel what happened was a “cascade of negligence” and “it was one negligent act after another".

Exemplary damages are also being sought in the case.

Senior Counsel Liam Reidy SC said the doctor who carried out the surgery was an inexperienced junior surgeon and was not supervised.

Counsel told the court how inept the entire process at the hospital was illustrated in the fact that when they decided to cool Mrs Thawley’s brain with ice, two doctors were sent across the road to a pub to get ice as there was none in the hospital.

Counsel said the fact that the Minister for Health ordered a statutory inquiry into the case gave no comfort to Mrs Thawley’s widower and he can’t get over his wife’s death and has “severe hopelessness.”

The hospital is being sued over the death of Mrs Thawley and her husband is also suing for nervous shock.

Liability has been admitted in the case which is before the court for assessment of damages only.

Alan Thawley (31) Brusna Cottages, Blackrock, Dublin has sued the National Maternity Hospital Dublin over the death of his wife and for the nervous shock he suffered as a result.

Her husband Alan sat in court as his counsel Liam Reidy SC opened the case before Mr Justice Anthony Barr.

The couple had been living in Ireland for three years at Blackrock in Dublin when Ms Thawley died.

Counsel said they had been profoundly happy and excited when she became pregnant.

As a surprise gift, her husband had arranged a scan at six weeks.

At the scan, they were told to go to Holles Street for advice about the ectopic pregnancy.

Counsel said it was a Sunday and an ultrasound at Holles Street confirmed the ectopic pregnancy.

Mr Thawley he said had googled ectopic pregnancy and had seen it could be treated with certain medicine, but Counsel said he was told that because the foetal sac had a heartbeat the only option was a surgical intervention.

The couple felt they should follow the advice.

Counsel said to this day Mr Thawley regrets the decision made, but the couple were reassured it was a routine procedure which would take thirty minutes.

Mrs Thawley was taken to theatre at 4pm.

“Alan never saw her again,” Counsel said.

At 5.30pm a nurse told him a lot of blood was found in the abdomen and at 6.30 pm a doctor came to him and he was told his wife had lost ten units of blood “but they were dealing with it.”

Counsel said Mr Thawley felt he was not being told the full picture.

At 7.30pm The Master of the National Maternity Hospital Dr Rhona Mahony came to him and told him the situation was very serious and doctors were doing everything they could.

Dr Rhona Mahony. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

“She said there is a chance your wife could die. About twenty minutes later, she returned with a specialist surgeon and said ‘Malak is dead.”

Counsel said Mr Thawley was told a trocar had been inserted in the abdomen and it had torn the aorta.

Mr Reidy said Mr Thawley remembered saying are you telling me it was a mistake and the surgeon said yes it was medical misadventure.

Counsel said Mr Thawley was in a state of shock and disbelief.

When he returned to Holles Street the next day Counsel said the Master Dr Mahony said all surgery has risks and what happened was an accident.

The case before Mr Justice Anthony Barr continues.

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