Mother sues trust after daughter’s death

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The mother of a two-year-girl who died within months of liver surgery at a Belfast hospital has told her story to help other parents.

Scarlett O’Neill underwent a liver biopsy at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in May 2011 after it was discovered she had a tumour.

She died in October that year after infections were discovered as she prepared for a liver transplant.

Scarlett’s mother, Carol O’Neill, from Twinbrook, west Belfast, sued the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, which paid her £45,000 in damages on Friday at the in an out of court settlement at the High Court.

“As a family we always wanted the story out, because people need to know,” Ms O’Neill told the BBC.

“I want people to know that there are other options out there and when they do take their children [to hospital] make sure everything is explained to them properly, because it was not done with us.”

Ms O’Neill claims that prior to consenting to a biopsy procedure she was not told internal bleeding could not be controlled in Belfast.

She said her daughter had to be airlifted by the RAF to Birmingham Children’s Hospital after complications arose, describing the care she received there as “excellent”.

Within weeks her daughter recovered sufficiently to start chemotherapy, but further issues allegedly developed following her transfer back to the Royal.

It was claimed that her wounds were not properly treated, causing infection and swelling to the stomach.

Scarlett, who had been placed on a liver transplant list, died in October 2011 after returning to Birmingham for the scheduled surgery.

“The thing that I always say - and I believe - if my child had have had that biopsy carried out in Birmingham to begin with, she would be here today, because Birmingham have the expertise, they know how to stop a bleed.

“When a bleed happens you need to act immediately, they know, they have the proper facilities.

“Had we known this, she would never have had the biopsy in the Royal in the first place, but we weren’t told any of this information.”

Ms O’Neill said the night of the biopsy a doctor from the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children told her and her partner that they did not know how to stop the bleed and that they should tell their family that Scarlett would pass away that night.

She said it was only when Scarlett survived the night that the doctor contacted the Birmingham hospital.

“Even Birmingham questioned why he waited so long to contact them, because he didn’t contact them until the following day.”

The BBC contacted the Belfast Trust for a statement. It didn’t want to say anything further, except that it offers its deepest sympathies to Scarlett’s family.