The distraught parents of a 20-year-old student who died suddenly and inexplicably last month in an emergency department (ED) within 12 hours of presenting for treatment have been unable to get any answers from the hospital as to what went wrong.
Denisse Kyle Dasco passed away at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) in Cork on April 21.
However, in the intervening five weeks, her parents, Carlos and Gwen Dasco, have not been given an opportunity to speak to any senior clinicians at the hospital about what might have caused their daughter’s death. This is despite the hospital committing to implementing the HSE’s open disclosure policy in 2014.
In desperation, the Dascos have now engaged a solicitor to act on their behalf. The solicitor, Denis O’Sullivan, wrote to MUH on May 19, to place on record the Dascos’ outrage at “the callous and indifferent behaviour of the hospital as regards its refusal to provide the most basic information to Mr and Mrs Dasco who are grieving parents”.
In the letter, seen by the Irish Examiner, Mr O’Sullivan wrote that his firm had been instructed by Mr and Mrs Dasco, of 147 Russell Court, Fr Russell Road, Raheen, Limerick, “that you [MUH] have refused to discuss with them the circumstances of cause of their daughter’s unexpected death while under your care”.
The letter concludes: “Your refusal to engage in any meaningful way with Mr and Mrs Dasco in relation to the death of their daughter is nothing less than barbarous”.
The Irish Examiner understands that Ms Dasco, a third-year forensic science student at University College Cork, had been complaining to her friend and housemate of a severe pain in her back on the morning of her death. She was in phone contact with her parents and made them aware she was feeling unwell.
A decision was taken to call an ambulance and she arrived at MUH at around 10am on the morning of April 21.
It is understood blood samples were taken and she was put on an IV and given medication for pain relief. During the course of the day, there was little sign of her condition improving. She spent a period sleeping.
However, it appears the pain did not subside and she showed signs of discomfort on the trolley. She remained in phone contact with her parents. A friend had accompanied her to the ED.
Later that evening, more blood was taken. It is understood Ms Dasco’s oxygen levels fluctuated while in the ED. By about 9pm that evening, Ms Dasco was complaining of pins and needles and had started to panic.
She was taken for an electrocardiogram which records the electrical activity of the heart. It is understood she subsequently started vomiting and was rushed to the resuscitation room. Tragically, she passed away at around 9.30pm, as her mother was driving to the hospital to be with her daughter.
When Mrs Dasco arrived at around 10pm, it is understood that she was told her daughter was unwell. She was then brought to a room and asked to sit down where doctors delivered the devastating news that her daughter had in fact passed away.
It is understood Mrs Dasco returned to the hospital the next day, desperate to find out what had happened, but was not given any answers by doctors.
The Irish Examiner contacted MUH last Wednesday but the hospital was not commenting on the case.
However on the same day, a letter was written by the hospital’s risk manager, Janice Cregan, to Mr O’Sullivan, saying the reason for the hospital’s silence was the ongoing coroner’s inquiry into Ms Dasco’s death.
“Until this investigation (which is ongoing) is concluded, the coroner does not permit any meetings with the hospital and the family as it may interfere with the investigation,” Ms Cregan wrote.
“I am sorry if this was not explained clearly to Mr and Mrs Dasco when they contacted the hospital,” Ms Cregan said.
Until the inquiry was concluded, “all queries should be referred to the coroner’s office,” she said.
The letter was sent by registered post on May 25 and received by Mr O’Sullivan yesterday.
Cork city coroner Philip Comyn told this newspaper that when a matter comes under “coronial investigation, we don’t allow the hospital to engage directly with the family until the investigation is complete”.
However, if the family had specific questions, he would invite them to direct them to his office.
Mr O’Sullivan said the Dascos’ contact with the coroner was in relation to releasing their daughter’s body following postmortem.
The family’s solicitor wrote to the coroner’s office on May 18 asking for the release of Ms Dasco’s medical records and any relevant documentation.
The response was that the coroner was awaiting documentation and would revert upon receipt of that information.
Speaking on the family’s behalf yesterday, Mr O’Sullivan said: “Where the death of a child occurs, the hospital has an ethical and moral duty to inform the child’s parents of what it knows concerning the death of their child while in its care.
“The hospital’s failure to do so is scandalous.”
The deceased, described by her parents as “always so bubbly, outgoing, entertaining, friendly, energetic, sports-minded person with a positive attitude” was sister to Deborah and Carl.
She had previously studied biochemistry at the University of Limerick and was originally from the Philippines.
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