Relatives of an Indian woman who died from pregnancy complications have expressed disappointment that her inquest has been postponed until the family’s court action against the health authorities has been heard.
Dhara Kivlehan, 28, died in September 2010 in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital a week after giving birth to her son Dior - her first child - in Sligo General Hospital.
Her widower Michael Kivlehan, from Dromohair, Co Leitrim, is taking legal action against the Republic of Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) over a series of alleged failings in her treatment in Sligo - claims the HSE is set to contest when the case is heard at Dublin High Court in December.
The inquest had been scheduled to proceed in Northern Ireland next week, but the region’s senior coroner John Leckey has now decided to postpone it pending the conclusion of the civil action.
He had been mindful of the looming civil case when originally scheduling the inquest to commence in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh next Monday.
At a preliminary hearing in Belfast last month, which was attended by Mr Kivlehan and his young son, the coroner had warned that the inquest should not be viewed as a “dry run” for the High Court case, and insisted it had to be treated as a wholly separate inquiry.
Such considerations will no longer be a factor, with the inquest now unable to get under way until next year.
The Kivlehans’ lawyer Roger Murray said the family were unhappy with the postponement.
“The family were disappointed to learn of this decision,” he said.
Mr Murray said after years of delay they had hoped to see the inquest conclude this month.
“Three years have passed so they have been waiting,” he said.
“And then for the inquest to be postponed was very disappointing for them.”
The lawyer said the family’s fundamental objective was for “the truth to come out”.
Mrs Kivlehan, who was originally from Gujarat in north-west India, was airlifted to Belfast after developing a severe form of pre-eclampsia in Sligo General - a condition her family allege was not diagnosed early enough despite warning signs.
The family’s civil case focuses specifically on her time in Sligo General, with relatives having praised the care given to Mrs Kivlehan in Belfast.
Ten doctors who then worked in Sligo and five from the Royal Victoria had been provisionally listed to give evidence to the inquest.
A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice’s Office outlined Mr Leckey’s decision.
“This inquest has been postponed as civil proceedings are ongoing and the Coroner wishes to await the outcome of the civil proceedings,” she said.