The Coroner for South Mayo, John O’Dwyer, made a number of recommendations for home births this week following an inquest into a tragic case where a baby was still born after complications arose during a home birth.
After hearing the evidence in the case of Kai David Williams-Heneghan, O’Dwyer recorded a verdict of misadventure saying that the death was neither an accident nor a natural death, but there was not sufficient evidence to say that if Ms Sarah Williams, the mother of the child, had been brought to hospital earlier than she was that Kai would have survived. He also found that the midwife had done nothing intentionally wrong in her care of Ms Williams and her child.
After he delivered his verdict, Mr O’Dwyer laid out three recommendations that he believes should be followed to cut down on the chances of such a tragic incident occurring again in the future. He recommended that no midwife be given the sole responsibility for the care of a mother and child during home births, due to the responsibility and burden that it places on the midwife, and they should be given assistance.
He also recommended that the emergency services be notified in advance of any planned home births that are due to take place, so that they can put a plan in place in case of an emergency transfer to hospital being required. He had heard evidence during the inquest that such notification and plans have been put in place in the past in other cases. In his final recommendation he said that Mayo was a large county geographically with not the best of roads and it should be looked into the optimum distance for a home birth to be carried out away from a hospital, and these should be factored into the risk assessment that is carried out before the home birth.
The coroner had heard evidence over two days from both of Kai’s parents, Emmet Heneghan and Ms Willams, and the midwife Ms Christina Engel, who were present in their home on the night of May 23 into May 24 2011, as to the events of the night in question. Evidence was also given by consultant pathologist Dr Fadel Bennai, who gave the medical cause of the death of Kai as still birth due to acute intrauterine asphyxia during labour, and expert witness testimony from UK based retired consultant obstetrician Robert Clements who reviewed the case.
Mr O’Dwyer offered his deepest condolences and sympathies to the parents of Kai, as did Declan Buckley SC, senior counsel for the HSE, Mayo General Hospital and Ms Engel. On behalf of Kai’s parents, John Jordan BL said they were happy with the way the inquest was conducted and with the recommendations that had been made by Mr O’Dwyer.