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30th Aug 2021

External review carried out after mother and baby died in Cork hospital

Ellen Fitzpatrick


An external review into the tragic death of a mother and her baby in a Cork hospital has been carried out, recommending changes made in all Irish maternity hospitals.

The review looked into the sudden death of mother of three Marie Downey who was found dead in her single hospital room on 25 March 2019.

Her newborn son Darragh was also found under her bed critically injured and later passed away from those injuries. He was only three days old.

The review has recommended that an epilepsy clinical nurse specialist or advanced nurse practitioner be appointed to the hub maternity hospital in all of the country’s seven maternity groups.

An inquest into these deaths at Cork University Maternity Hospital is due to open later today before Cork City Coroner Philip Comy and is expected to last two days in order to establish a cause of death.

The 36-year-old mother had epilepsy and it was initially thought that she passed away after suffering a medical episode and falling from her bed while feeding her baby.

She was checked on at 7 am but found just after 8 am, being pronounced dead not long after.

An expert panel was sent in to review the circumstances immediately following their deaths, which was commissioned by Professor John Higgins, Clinical Director for Maternity Services at the South/Southwest Hospital Group.

With all members of the panel from outside of this hospital group, they aimed to improve the current processes in place at all maternity hospitals, and not just Cork University Maternity Hospital

According to RTÉ, the latest report concluded that along with specialised nurses being appointed, a consultant neurologist with an interest in maternity health should be appointed to Cork University Hospital.

It also saw that the standardisation of some of the functions of electronic patient records needs to make it possible that flagging risk and co-morbidity is consistently done.

While a single room is considered optimal, seizure warning devices for women with epilepsy are to be considered.

It also said that if women with an underlying condition are in these hospitals, information on how it impacts the pregnancy must be sourced, with HSE guidance on women with epilepsy to be circulated around all maternity units.

While this is recommended, it also states that access to this information must be done by a key staff member to protect patient confidentiality.