Councillors unanimously back campaign for ‘Raychel’s Law’

Raychel Ferguson.
Raychel Ferguson.

The parents of Raychel Ferguson who want a new law criminalising dishonesty in the health service named after their daughter, were described as an ‘inspiration’ as Derry City and Strabane District Council unanimously backed ‘Raychel’s Law’ on Thursday.

Raychel was nine-years-old when the maladministration of a drip in Altnagelvin contributed to her death from hyponatraemia in the Royal Victoria Hospital two days later in 2001.

Last month Justice John O’Hara’s 14 year Inquiry into Hyponatraemia-related Deaths (IHRD) in the North found several failings in the care the former St. Patrick’s Primary pupil received before her death.

Damningly, Justice O’Hara also concluded there had been a lack of transparency on the part of health service staff when dealing with Raychel’s parents Marie and Ray.

Justice O’Hara recommended legislators enact a new statutory duty of candour, which Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson have asked to be named ‘Raychel’s Law’ in memory of their daughter.

The idea won strong support at Derry City and Strabane District Council’s first monthly meeting since the publication of the O’Hara report.

A motion tabled by Sinn Féin councillor Patricia Logue proposing that “this Council states that we fully and wholeheartedly support the campaign by Raychel Ferguson’s family for ‘Raychel’s Law’ for a statutory duty of candour in honour of those children who have died as a result of Hyponatraemia” was passed unanimously.

Proposing the motion, Colr. Logue suggested that the Fergusons’ “shock and grief was compounded by the knowledge that families knew from the beginning that there was information regarding these avoidable deaths.

“To quote the words of the inquiry chairperson, Justice O’Hara, ‘truth had to be dragged from the clinicians’.

“They behaved evasively, dishonestly and ineptly.”

She said it was impossible to fathom the anguish experienced by the five families, including Raychel’s, who were at the centre of the hyponatraemia inquiry.

“Can you imagine the pain that theses families went through? This couldn’t have done anything else other than to destroy family life as they once knew it.”

DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock concurred: “Not only the tragic deaths but the time taken to get to where we are today has added to the heartbreak and suffering experienced by these bereaved families.

“These tragedies all occured between 1995 and 2003 and these families have not been able to grieve properly as they have sought to receive justice for their beloved children.”

SDLP Colr. Angela Dobbins stated: “Mr. Justice O’Hara’s recommendations must be implemented to the full especially the proposal for a duty of candour on medical professionals to tell the families about major failures fully and honestly. My thoughts today are with the families.”

Independent Colr. Maurice Devenny said: “I was shocked when the judge read out the lengths to which medical professionals went to cover up this problem. The message must go out that this never happens again.”

Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly agreed: “We need to change the culture of closing ranks and withholding information in order to prevent this type of thing happening again.”

And Independent Colr. Warren Robinson, also supporting the motion, said he had recently met Raychel’s mother Marie while she was knocking on doors in the city petitioning for public support for ‘Raychel’s Law’.

Colr. Robinson commented: “Her determination is an inspiration.”