Cork couple reject apology over death of baby at CUMH

The parents of a baby boy who died at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) rejected an apology from the HSE and the hospital over their son’s death and said it was four years too late.

Baby Alfie O’Reilly, from Midleton, Co Cork, was four days old when he died in his father’s arms at CUMH on July 25th, 2020.

Outside the Four Courts in Dublin on Wednesday after they settled an action against the HSE, Alfie’s parents, Amanda and Aidan O’Reilly, said the impact of their son’s death is immeasurable.

“While the legal process ends here, and the HSE and the State Claims Agency can put Alfie’s death behind them, we are forced to look forward and attempt to honour him as we live the rest of our lives.

“We have been left with a grave to visit instead of a son to raise. So much has been taken from us, but Alfie’s whole life was taken from him and that’s what needs to be remembered. Alfie should be here,” the couple said in a statement.

They said their son’s death and their four-year legal battle means their trust in the health and justice systems has been shattered.

“It has been clear that neither us nor Alfie have held any importance to the HSE or the State Claims Agency, which, considering the admission of liability, is insulting.

“We can only ask that they treat families in our situation with more dignity in the future,” the O’Reillys added.

In the High Court, the family’s counsel, Jonathan Kilfeather SC, instructed by Michael Boylan Litigation, said the HSE admitted liability in the action in which it was claimed a delay in delivering Alfie by Caesarean section had caused or contributed to his death.

Amanda and Aidan O’Reilly, holding a photograph of Baby Alfie, were in court as the settlement of their action against the HSE over the death of their son was ruled upon on Wednesday.

An apology on behalf of CUMH and its staff was read to the High Court by HSE counsel Luan O’Braonain SC.

In the letter of apology, “heartfelt sympathies and condolences” on the death of Baby Alfie were expressed on behalf of the hospital and staff.

It apologised “unreservedly and sincerely” for the failings in care during the course of the feto-maternal haemorrhage “that caused the death of your son Alfie”.

The hospital said it did not underestimate how traumatic it has been for the O’Reillys, and wished to acknowledge its enduring impact on them.

Too late

Ms O’Reilly told Mr Justice Michael P O’Higgins: “An apology was made here today. Your Honour, it was an apology that we had to ask for. An apology that has come almost four years too late.

“The apology once again attempts to refute liability by laying reference to the feto-maternal haemorrhage that Alfie experienced. How can an apology over the liability for the death of our child be so insincere?”

She told the judge it was insulting, and she and her husband did not accept it.

She said that, as well as enduring the grief and trauma following the death of their son, they had been forced to endure an almost four-year legal battle.

She added: “Throughout the legal process, Alfie’s short life and tragic death has not been shown the dignity it deserves, and this is something that has been incredibly distressing for Aidan and I.

“It has been clear from the outset that the aim of the HSE and the State Claims Agency has been to settle out of court, however they prolonged the process unnecessarily in what felt like an attempt to beat us down.”

She told the judge that Alfie “was absolutely perfect, with navy blue eyes and the most perfect little nose”, adding he was “so wanted, so adored, and he is so tragically missed”.

The court also heard of how Alfie’s death has impacted his big sister, Emilia.

“Emilia was born to be a big sister. She could not wait for him to be born and speaks of his absence daily. Emilia includes Alfie in every aspect of her little life, and while it is endearing, it is also devastating.

“Our little girl experienced death at an age that no child should and will live with those consequences for the rest of her life.”

Mr Justice O’Higgins ,who noted the settlement and the division of the statutory mental distress payment of €35,000, said Ms O’Reilly’s remarks had been heartfelt.

The judge said he hoped the family would find solace and closure in the finalisation of the proceedings, adding it was important for the court and legal practitioners to get feedback.

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