Dhara and Michael Kivlehan.Irish Voice

A father whose wife died a week after childbirth has appealed to other fathers not to be afraid to challenge doctors.

Michael Kivlehan, 35, was speaking out after an inquest jury found his India-born wife Dhara’s death from multi-organ failure was due to medical misadventure, a formal term for medical error.

Dhara, 29, who lived with her husband in Dromahair, Co. Leitrim, died in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital in September 2010 a week after giving birth at Sligo Regional Hospital. She had been airlifted from the Sligo hospital four days earlier.

Kivlehan fought for an inquest south of the border because he wished to know the exact cause of his wife’s death and he feared medics at the Sligo hospital were not bound to attend a hearing in the North.

After the five-day hearing ended on Monday night he appealed, “I would like to get the message out there to lay people that childbirth is not always that simple. And to tell the fathers they need to be more supportive of their women, especially if they have any concerns, and to have the strength to challenge doctors.”

Referring to his experience of some staff in Sligo, he said medics should improve their bedside manner.

In the aftermath of the inquest, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is expected to be pressured to address whether there are sufficient intensive care beds available in the Republic’s system.

Initially the Sligo hospital had no ICU bed for Dhara. Subsequently, it was discovered that Galway, Dublin and Cork could not provide intensive care facilities. That was why Dhara, who gave birth to a son Dior, now aged four, was transferred by helicopter to Belfast.

Leading obstetrician Peter Boylan, a former master of Holles Street maternity Hospital in Dublin, told the inquest jury that a number of deficiencies contributed to Dhara’s death.

He said it was impossible to know if she would have survived had she been transferred earlier to a specialist center, but that would have constituted the “best possible care.”

He said a delay in referring the new mother to both kidney and liver specialists were contributing factors in her death. The failure to organize any liver consult in Sligo was “unacceptable.”

In separate civil proceedings last year Michael Kivlehan and his son were awarded nearly €1 million damages by the High Court when the HSE admitted and apologized for shortcomings in the care of Dhara.