Challenge brought over inquest into 19-year-old student's death

A couple has taken a legal challenge over a coroner's refusal to await the report of an external review into the care of their 19-year-old daughter at Sligo University Hospital before resuming an inquest into her death.

Challenge brought over inquest into 19-year-old student's death

A couple has taken a legal challenge over a coroner's refusal to await the report of an external review into the care of their 19-year-old daughter at Sligo University Hospital before resuming an inquest into her death.

A stay on the inquest resuming applies pending the outcome of the High Court case by the parents of Lisa Niland or further order.

A university student from Drimbane, Curry, Co Sligo, Ms Niland collapsed on January 17, 2017, in a fast food restaurant in Sligo where she had gone with her boyfriend for a milkshake. As she walked into the restaurant, she complained of a massive headache, slumped on the floor and vomited.

She was taken to Sligo University Hospital where a scan the following morning showed she had a bleed on her brain. She was transferred the same day to Beaumont Hospital but surgeons were unable to save her and she died on January 20.

An external review into her death was commissioned by the Saolta Hospital Group, which runs several hospitals including Sligo University Hospital, and its report is expected shortly.

An inquest into her death opened last March and was due to resume on July 2.

Ms Niland's parents, Angela and Gerry Niland, want Dublin District Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane to admit the findings of that review as evidence in the inquest, allow their lawyers question witnesses on foot of the review findings, and to take those findings into account in her final decision.

There has been correspondence between Dr Cullinane and Damien Tansey Solicitors, for the Nilands, about that matter.

On Thursday, Eoin McCullough SC, for the parents, said Dr Cullinane, in a letter dated June 27, said the content of any such report of third-party investigations "is not a matter for my court and cannot form evidence at the inquest".

Dr Cullinane said eight witnesses have been heard to date at the inquest during which there had been "no impediment to legitimate lines of inquiry".

She said further evidence is to be heard on July 2, at which point she anticipated she will have heard sufficient evidence to discharge her statutory duties, but was reserving her position in that regard.

In those circumstances, the inquest will proceed as listed on July 2, she wrote.

Mr McCullough said the parents want the coroner to defer the inquest to await the results of the review, likely to be available in the very near future.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan granted the ex parte (one side only represented) application for leave to challenge the coroner's decision as set out in her June 27 letter and returned the matter to July 23. He put a stay on the inquest resuming pending the outcome of the High Court case or further order.

The coroner can apply to the court at 48 hours notice to vary or discharge the stay.

In their proceedings, the parents say Ms Niland had consumed no alcohol on January 17, 2017, and did not take drugs. They claim they and her boyfriend were repeatedly asked by Sligo hospital staff whether she had recently consumed any alcohol or drugs.

They claim Ms Niland arrived at the hospital at 9.30pm but was not taken for a CT scan until at least 10am the following morning. The scan indicated she had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and she was airlifted to Beaumont at 1pm where she underwent surgery which was unfortunately unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead the following day.

It was claimed a surgeon at Beaumont expressed a view to her parents if the scan had been conducted more expeditiously and the bleed identified, an earlier surgery would have a much greater chance of saving her life.

It is also claimed civil liability proceedings have been issued by the parents and Ms Niland's sister against the HSE and it has conceded liability.

The parents believe the external review will contain material relevant to lines of inquiry they wish to pursue at the inquest. The review team will have full access to significantly more materials than those before the coroner as of now, they say.

They claim they will suffer real or potential prejudice if this material is not available before the coroner enters her final verdict.

The coroner, they claim, has contravened their rights to fair procedures and/or adequate reasons in declining to await the final report of the review before resuming the inquest.

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