Northern Ireland

Hyponatraemia: Claire Roberts' death 'caused by hospital treatment'

Claire Roberts Image copyright Roberts family
Image caption Nine-year-old Claire Roberts died in the city's Royal Hospital for Sick Children in 1996

The death of a nine-year-old girl in Belfast's Royal Hospital for Sick Children in 1996 was caused by treatment she received in hospital, an inquest has found.

Claire Roberts' death was examined by the Hyponatraemia Inquiry.

But a new inquest was ordered after the chair of the inquiry said there had been a cover-up to "avoid scrutiny".

The Belfast Trust said it would "carefully consider the coroner's conclusions and recommendations".

It said it would "ensure that the trust learns from Claire's death".

The inquest heard from 10 expert medical witnesses over four days of hearings.

The coroner, Joe McCrisken, said he considered, on balance, that an "overdose" of fluids contributed to her death.

Hyponatraemia is a disorder that occurs during a sodium shortage in the blood.

Image caption The family of Claire Roberts - her brother Gareth and parents Alan and Jennifer - speaking outside court on Friday

Speaking outside court, Claire's family thanked the coroner for reaching his verdict.

Her father Alan said that it was "reaffirming what we have known for 15 years".

"The travesty of all of that is we had to go through a 15-year process culminating in a Coroner's Court and him being definitive about the cause of death."

He added: "We as Claire's parents have a clear message for the Belfast Trust, the implicated doctors and the chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride - hang your heads in shame."

'Truth dragged out'

Her mother, Jennifer, said she knew Claire "would be proud of her mummy and daddy".

"But it's a word that I want to hear today, her say to me, 'mummy, thank you, I love you'."

The 14-year Hyponatraemia Inquiry, chaired by Sir John O'Hara QC, examined the treatment of five children who died in Northern Ireland hospitals between 1995 and 2003.

Sir John concluded that four of the deaths were avoidable and said some medical witnesses who were called to give evidence "had to have the truth dragged out of them".

Claire, from east Belfast, was admitted to hospital two days before her death, with symptoms that included vomiting and drowsiness.

'No empathy'

The parents explained how there were "no alarm bells" when they brought Claire to the Royal hospital for what they thought was "just a tummy bug".

Her death was not referred to the coroner immediately and her parents, Alan and Jennifer Roberts, had never really understood why she had died.

The inquest heard from 10 expert medical witnesses over four days of hearings this week.

On Thursday, her mother told the inquest the Belfast Health Trust had shown her family "no empathy" since then.

Her husband Alan said the trust had refused every opportunity to be "open and honest" with their family.

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