‘Raychel’s Law’ would be a fitting tribute

Raychel Ferguson
Raychel Ferguson
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A new law criminalising dishonesty on the part of health service staff should be named after Raychel Ferguson who died after being fed the wrong type of saline drip following an appendix operation in Altnagelvin in 2001, her heartbroken mother has said.

The otherwise healthy nine-year-old died in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital on June 10, 2001, as a result of hyponatraemia – a shortage of sodium in the body – two days after being admitted to Altnagelvin with stomach pains.

Her death has been subject to the 14-year Inquiry into Hyponatraemia-related Deaths (IHRD), led by Mr John O’Hara, who this week finally confirmed her parents’ conviction that there were several failings in the care Raychel received before her death almost two decades ago.

Mr O’Hara further found that there was an “obdurate reluctance amongst clinicians to openly acknowledge specific failings in Raychel’s care” and described this as “wholly reprehensible”.

He recommended a new statutory “duty of candour” that would compel health care organisations to be “open and honest” and impose criminal liability on anyone in breach of this duty.

Speaking after the publication of the IHRD report Raychel’s mother Marie said the enactment of ‘Raychel’s Law’ would make a fitting tribute to her daughter who would have turned 26 on Sunday had she survived what should have been a simple procedure.

“I would like that candour that Mr O’Hara talked about to be called ‘Raychel’s Law’ because I have fought for 16 and a half years and I would like that to be in Raychel’s memory,” she said.

Marie and Ray Ferguson joined the parents and families of four other children - Adam Strain, Claire Roberts, Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell, whose deaths were also subject to the IHRD - for the publication of Mr O’Hara’s findings on Wednesday.

Mrs Ferguson read a moving personal statement at the launch of the report stating: “Raychel was catastrophically failed by Altnagelvin Hospital where she was subjected to misdiagnoses, which led to an unnecessary operation and was further subjected to inadequate care.

“Raychel was a healthy nine-year-old child who suffered immensely in the last hours of her life through what we now know was the neglect of basic care.”

Speaking after the publication of the report, she said she felt vindicated by the force of Mr O’Hara’s conclusions.

“It just proves what we have been saying all along has been the truth. Everybody that was supposed to have looked after her, they have all let her down.

“He went further than what some of us would have expected. He named names.

“I don’t think Mr O’Hara could have condemned them anymore than he did.”

Mrs Ferguson paid tribute to her legal team Stephen Quinn and John Coyle, and especially to the Derry solicitor Des Doherty, who, she said, devoted 15 years to the inquiry.

“This isn’t the end. We’ll be calling on the police to open an investigation.

“The whole culture, hopefully, will change. This cover-up, this closing of ranks, keeping information from families, it all has to change.”