A call for all maternal death records to be unified into a single database and for increased transparency around these tragedies was made at an event in Dublin.
The brother of a woman who died after giving birth in Cork in 2021 attended the event, which focused on how a law making maternal inquests mandatory is being implemented. Romuald Chainey said Géraldine Yankeu was a great person and little sister.
“I was really happy to be here, and know there are people who care here," said Mr Chainey.
The family only realised last year that these inquests are now mandatory.
“We discovered this online; we spotted that the inquest was going to happen on the website of the, [in an article by] Ann Murphy,” he said.
A panel of legal experts addressed an audience which also included midwives, activists, former Dublin coroner Dr Brian Farrell, and MEP Clare Daly, at the ‘Elephant Collective’ event.
Cork barrister Doireann O’Mahony said reporting systems such as coroners’ reports and Maternal Death Enquiry (Ireland) should share information formally, “so as to ensure that the 2019 act is followed to the letter, and there is an inquest into each and every maternal death".
A speaker from the floor suggested an audit of all systems to see how data could be safely shared.
Ms O’Mahony said in her experience bereaved families can find the court setting for inquests "very intimidating, very daunting”.
Increased funding for coroners would be a “positive thing” she urged, a call supported by advocate Dr Jo Murphy-Lawless, who said coroners are “totally under-resourced”.
Kenmare solicitor Conor Murphy is working with the family of Tatenda Mukwata, who died after giving birth in Kerry last year.
He praised coroner Helen Lucey as they prepare for the inquest, but raised questions about the adversarial nature of inquests.
Families can face multiple legal teams, representing the HSE and medical staff.
“There is amongst all of us a desire that the whole process would be wrapped in objectivity, when of course the failing of this adversarial system is that is promotes subjectivity,” said Mr Murphy.
Solicitor Johan Verbruggen represented the family of Nayyab Tariq, who died after giving birth in Mayo in 2020.
“One of the main goals of an inquest is lesson-learning. It becomes adversarial because we are at home with the premise that it is about finding out how someone died,” he said.
Ms Daly, one of the TDs active in bringing forward the 2019 Coroners Act, said the legislation is “ground-breaking”.
It is important to turn the spotlight on tragedies, she said, and "particularly the shocking over-representation of women of colour or from a non-Irish background in those statistics".