Northern Ireland news

Hyponatraemia inquiry: Mother says name new duty of candour for medics 'Raychel's Law'

Marie and Raymond Ferguson, whose nine-year-old daughter Raychel died of hyponatraemia in June 2001, speak to the media following the publication Mr Justice O'Hara's report. Picture by Mal McCann
Seanin Graham

THE mother of one of the children at the centre of the hyponatraemia inquiry has said she would like a new "duty of candour" compelling medics to admit their mistakes to be named 'Raychel's Law'.

An emotional Marie Ferguson, whose nine-year-old daughter Raychel died in hospital in 2001, was speaking after a High Court judge delivered a devastating assessment of senior doctors and health service managers who "covered up" failings into "avoidable" deaths.

Inquiry chairman Mr Justice O'Hara, whose investigation into the deaths of five children began 14 years ago, said some medics had behaved "evasively, dishonestly and ineptly".

He found that four of the deaths were avoidable and the youngsters had received unacceptable care during the administration of intravenous fluids.

However, he was also scathing of how families were treated afterwards and of evidence given by medical professionals.

He said: "It is time that the medical profession and health service managers stopped putting their own reputations and interests first and put the public interest first."

Among the inquiry's 96 recommendations is that "as a matter of urgency a statutory duty of candour should be introduced".

"That would impose a duty to tell patients and their families about major failures in care and to give a full and honest explanation."

The inquiry was set up in 2004 to investigate the deaths of Adam Strain, Claire Roberts, Raychel Ferguson, Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell.

Raychel suffered brain death following an appendix operation just 48 hours after winning a medal at her school sports day and her mother said she has "devoted my life to a promise I made my only daughter - the promise was to find the truth".

"No family should have to go through the mental and physical stress, hurt and undermining that we are still going through," she said.

"I would like in memory of Raychel the introduction of a statutory duty of candour - Raychel's Law."

Health chiefs said yesterday they were "truly sorry" for their mistakes and pledged to ensure "all possible steps have been taken to prevent this from ever happening again".

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