Grieving parents highlight need for improved child health care in NI

The parents of a two-year-old girl who died following liver tumour surgery at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children have spoken of their hope that their medical negligence claim will encourage the health service to improve the standard of services for children.

Scarlett McDonagh had been diagnosed with a tumour on her liver at a Belfast hospital. Her mother Carol O'Neill was required to consent to a biopsy procedure but claimed that she was not made aware that the hospital would be unable to deal with complications such as internal bleeding. Complications arose during the procedure and Scarlett's parents claimed they were told by the doctor that they could not control the bleed and that Scarlett would pass away that night. Scarlett was airlifted to Birmingham Children's Hospital where her mother described the standard of care as "excellent".

Scarlett recovered sufficiently to start chemotherapy and she was transferred back to the Royal Belfast Hospital when further issues developed. The family claimed that Scarlett's wounds were not properly treated, which resulted in infection and swelling of the stomach. The infections were discovered when she had returned to the medical facilities in Birmingham for a liver transplant. Scarlett passed away in October 2011.

The medical negligence case brought by Scarlett's mother was settled in the Belfast High Court, and her parents Carol O'Neill and James McDonagh hope that the case highlights the need for improvement in the quality of treatment and care for children provided by the Northern Ireland health service, and that other parents do not have to go through the same suffering they did.

Gary Adair of Wilson Nesbitt, the solicitor handling the medical negligence claim on behalf of Carol O'Neill, said that the "family brought the case to fight for their daughter and highlight a wider situation". He added that "the family hope that this case will encourage the health service in Northern Ireland to improve services for children in the province."