Derry child’s death inquiry adjourned

Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast    3/2/05'Raychel Ferguson whose death is one of three deaths of children currently under investigation at a public inquiry headed by John O'Hara QC and being held at The Hilton Hotel in Belfast.
Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast 3/2/05'Raychel Ferguson whose death is one of three deaths of children currently under investigation at a public inquiry headed by John O'Hara QC and being held at The Hilton Hotel in Belfast.
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A public inquiry into the death of a nine year-old Derry girl at a Belfast hospital has been adjourned.

Raychel Ferguson died at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in 2001 having undergone surgery at Altnagelvin hospital.

She was one of five children whose deaths are being explored in the inquiry into hyponatraemia-related deaths which re-opened in Banbridge yesterday eight years after first opening.

The inquiry was adjourned with chairman, John O’Hara QC, stating that it was “regrettable”. However, he said that due to the fresh evidence he had no option but to delay proceedings.

Responding to the latest delay, Raychel Ferguson’s mother Marie said: “I don’t think any of us need any more delays, but we will have to accept it, we are still determined to get to the bottom of what happened to Raychel so that no other family will have to go through what we did.”

Her husband Ray added: “It has been a long battle to get to this stage - eight years. Listening to this [opening statements in court] has brought back a lot of painful memories, but we are glad that things are finally moving.”

Mr Ferguson said he was still afraid that another child could still be at risk from hyponatraemia - a condition resulting in a low level of sodium in the blood stream causing the brain cells to swell with excess water.

The other children whose deaths are being investigated during the hearing are Conor Mitchell (15), Adam Strain (4), Claire Roberts (9) and Lucy Crawford (17 months).

Fluid management is being investigated as the common link as it is alleged that the administration of the wrong amounts of fluid may have led to the children’s deaths.

Professor Finella Kirkham, a paediatric neurologist, has raised doubts about whether Adam Strain actually died from hyponatraemia.

Until yesterday there had been consensus from all expert witnesses but the latest report from Professor Kirkham’s is likely to determine how the hearings proceed. The public inquiry will sit again on Thursday, March 1, for a progress report.

Part of the inquiry’s remit is to examine the Sperrin-Lakeland Trust’s handling of Lucy’s death as it is argued that if her death had been recorded and reported properly in the Erne, Raychel Ferguson may not have died. The legal team of Raychel’s family argue that had lessons been learned from the way in which fluids were administered to Lucy, defective fluid management would not have occurred in the Derry child’s case 14 months later.