Northern Ireland

Hyponatraemia inquiry: Conor Mitchell family call apology 'cynical'

The hyponatraemia inquiry is hearing evidence at Banbridge courthouse
Image caption The hyponatraemia inquiry is hearing evidence at Banbridge courthouse

The family of a 15-year-old boy have described an apology from the Southern Health Trust for the death of their son as "cynical".

Conor Mitchell, from Lurgan, County Armagh, was initially treated at Craigavon area hospital.

He was later transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast.

The events following Conor's death are being investigated by the hyponatraemia inquiry in Banbridge, County Down.

Lack of communication

Health trust lawyers recently apologised to two other families whose deaths are being investigated by the inquiry.

Lawyers issued a "full and frank admission of liability" on behalf of the Belfast trust in relation to the death of Claire Roberts, 9, and Adam Strain, 4, but not Conor Mitchell.

The development at Banbridge Court house is significant as last week the Southern Health Trust only wrote to the family accepting liability for failing to implement guidelines.

That all changed when the legal team acting on behalf of the Southern Health Trust told the family that the trust now accepted there had been some form of seizure activity manifesting itself at the same time as the disease process manifesting itself in Conor's death.

The trust also apologised for the lack of communication between themselves and the family.

However, in a statement released by their solicitor, Conor's parents say the fact that the trust's admissions and apology have been extracted after ten and a half years and on the eve of hearings into elements of their son's treatment adds to the cynicism.

"The trust have admitted they failed to train relevant staff in the guidelines and that even paediatric nurses were not properly trained in these essential elements of care," they said.

Conflicting evidence

"To give equivocal admissions on these failings and to continue with the partial admissions is not acceptable to the family."

The Southern Health Trust have offered to meet Conor's family. But in response to that offer their solicitors said that the family will be seeking clarification as to what restrictions will be placed on the terms of this meeting as the single previous offer made was subject to substantial restrictions on what the trust were prepared to discuss.

According to the solicitor, the family now wants to consider what further steps they can take to investigate the failings in education, record keeping, communication and other aspects of Conor's treatment in Craigavon hospital.

"The family firmly believe that the fluid management and the seizures played a significant part in Conor's death. The conflicting evidence will need to be reviewed in detail before further steps are taken," the statement added.

The hyponatraemia inquiry is examining the deaths of three children, Adam Strain, Claire Roberts and Raychel Ferguson. It is also investigating the events following the deaths of Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell.

Conor was admitted to the A&E department of Craigavon Area Hospital on 8 May 2003.

All of the children died in hospital. In relation to four of the deaths hyponatraemia is said to be a contributing factor. Hyponatraemia describes an abnormally low level of sodium in the blood which occurs when fluid is not administered properly.

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