Grieving husband fears other women will continue to die in childbirth

A grieving husband spoke yesterday about his terror that other pregnant women will die in childbirth just like his wife Sally Rowlette did nearly three years ago.
Grieving husband fears other women will continue to die in childbirth
Michael Kivlehan

Sean Rowlette said that if inquests were mandatory for maternal deaths, he is convinced his wife Sally’s life could have been saved thanks to information from an inquiry into the death of a woman treated at the same hospital.

But Dhara Kivlehan’s widower, Michael, fought for four years before he got an inquest into her death.

Sean Rowlette said: “What was learned then would have saved Sally’s life. I have no doubt about that.”

He was speaking before a nationwide campaign to prevent women dying in childbirth is launched next week.

Bereaved husbands who battled for inquiries into their wives’ maternity deaths are supporting a campaign for investigations into the death of every woman in Ireland’s maternity services.

They want mandatory automatic inquests into the deathsso lessons can be learned.

Dhara Kivlehan
Dhara Kivlehan

The husbands are so far supported by 150 women, many of them midwives and students, in a campaign which launches its nationwide tour with an exhibition next week at Grangegorman DIT in Dublin.

It is called The Elephant Collective because when an elephant gives birth the rest of the herd surround her to protect her and the new calf.

Sally Rowlette’s widower Sean and Dhara Kivlehan’s widower Michael will be at the launch. Michael fought for four years before he got an inquest after Dhara died giving birth to their son, Dior, in 2010.

Sean fought for 18 months for an inquest into Sally’s death. He is convinced her death could have been avoided if there had been a timely inquest into Dhara’s death.

Sean, who is caring for his four children, said: “I have no doubt Sally would be alive today if Dhara’s inquest had been held on time. If there wasn’t such a delay the truth would have been known. You get the truth and then you get a fix and the problem doesn’t happen again.”

Sean, who has become friends with Michael after their long battles for inquests, said: “I feel bitter that Sally died because an inquiry wasn’t made into an earlier death which would have provided information that would have saved her life.”

He and Michael already highlighted to Health Minister Leo Varadkar at a meeting earlier this year the importance of having early inquests into maternity deaths.

Michael Kivlehan
Michael Kivlehan

Jo Murphy-Lawless, sociology lecturer at Trinity College’s school of nursing and midwifery, is one of the leaders of the collective.

She said: “Like the elephants, we want to provide better protection for Irish mothers when they are giving birth in hospital.

"There’s an urgent need for hospitals and the HSE to open up on providing information. What stops them is that they are too fearful of litigation.

"There have been too many maternal deaths because information which would have been produced at an inquest wasn’t available in time to prevent a repeat.”

The campaign launched at the Grangegorman exhibition next Wednesday will travel to Letterkenny, Sligo, Galway, Ennis, Limerick, Cork, Wexford, and Kilkenny over the next 12 months.

Eight women who died in Irish maternity services and whose inquests recorded that their deaths were due to medical misadventure will be remembered in the campaign.

They are: Tania McCabe, March 2007; Evelyn Flanagan, October 2007; Jennifer Crean, February 2009; Bimbo Onanuga, March 2010; Dhara Kivlehan, September 2010; Nora Hyland, February 2012; Savita Halappanavar, October 2012; and Sally Rowlette, February 2013.

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