A coroner has bowed to pressure and offered to almost treble the number of witnesses for an inquest into the death of a woman who died days after giving birth.
Dhara Kivlehan, 28 and originally from India, died from multi-organ failure in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital on September 28 2010 after suffering a severe strain of pre-eclampsia and being airlifted four days earlier from Sligo General.
Widower Michael Kivlehan, 34, accused the coroner in Leitrim, Eamon MacGowan, of presiding over a cover-up at a preliminary hearing last month after he initially said he would call six medics.
The coroner revised his plans – offering to hear evidence from 17 witnesses and asking for recommendations – after family lawyers threatened to challenge him in the High Court.
Twelve doctors and seven midwives were involved in Mrs Kivlehan’s care in Sligo, as well as a number of doctors and nurses in Belfast.
Mr Kivlehan’s lawyers, Callan Tansey based in Sligo, said the development is a positive step forward.
Mr MacGowan originally offered to hear from two doctors from Sligo, two doctors from the Royal in Belfast, Mr Kivlehan and Dr Peter Boylan, the former master of Holles St and a consultant obstetrician.
Dr Boylan gave evidence as an expert witness in the inquest into the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died in hospital in Galway in October 2012 after suffering a miscarriage and blood poisoning.
The deaths and care of the two Indian women in hospital have drawn parallels.
The inquest is due to begin in Carrick-on-Shannon courthouse on September 22 – a day after the couple’s son Dior celebrates his fourth birthday.
Mr Kivlehan had pressed Mr MacGowan to take the same approach as Belfast coroner John Leckey, who suggested 24 witnesses would be called when an inquest was opened in Northern Ireland.
The hearing was moved to the Republic amid concerns that medics from Sligo could not be compelled north of the border and after Irish Attorney General Maire Whelan intervened to ask Dr Leckey if he would agree to a change in jurisdiction.
Mr Kivlehan and son Dior were awarded almost €1m (£790,000) late last year after the Health Service Executive apologised for shortcomings in the young mother’s care.
The couple met in London in 2002 where Dhara was studying fashion and Michael was working.
They moved to Co Leitrim and married in 2005. They planned to bring up a family where Michael was reared.
Mrs Kivlehan was suffering from a severe variant of pre-eclampsia called Hellp (Haemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes and Low Platelets) in Sligo and was airlifted to Belfast.
A preliminary hearing has been told that medics in Sligo said “it’s only a matter of time” when she was being transferred into an air ambulance for treatment in the Royal.
Mrs Kivlehan was two weeks over her due date when she arrived at Sligo General on September 20 in labour.
The results of blood tests taken that afternoon – which showed “grossly abnormal liver function and grossly abnormal kidney function” – were not followed up by her doctors or reported back by the lab for another 12 hours.
Baby Dior was delivered by C-section shortly before 6am the following day.
The hearing was told two doctors in Sligo agreed that the emergency procedure was needed to deliver the baby and then Mrs Kivlehan should be treated in intensive care.
The civil action last year heard she was transferred to a side room off the maternity ward for a day and a half with no specialist care before being moved to intensive care.