Northern Ireland

Hyponatraemia: Raychel Ferguson's parents want truth in inquest

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionRaychel's parents Marie and Ray say they hope a new inquest will give them truth and justice

The parents of a nine-year-old girl who died from hyponatremia have said they hope a new inquest will give them truth and justice.

Raychel Ferguson from Londonderry died at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children 18 years ago.

Northern Ireland's attorney general has directed the coroner to open a new inquest into her death.

"All we ever wanted from the start was the truth and we didn't get it," her mother Marie Ferguson told BBC News NI.

The Western Health Trust said it would not comment on individual cases but it "always cooperates fully and openly in every coroner's inquest."

How five children's deaths led to 14-year quest

Raychel's death in June 2001 came a day after an appendix operation at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.

Hyponatraemia is an abnormally low level of sodium in blood and can occur when fluids are given incorrectly.

Image caption A public inquiry found that Raychel's death was the result of "negligent care"

Raychel's parents Ray and Marie Ferguson have long campaigned to find out the truth about their daughter's death.

A previous inquest into their daughter's death held in 2003 was a "shambles", said Mrs Ferguson.

'Reluctance to acknowledge failings'

She said a number of key documents were at that time withheld from the coroner.

"The full circumstances around what happened to Raychel were not told to the coroner," she added.

"I am hoping this time the true circumstances about Raychel's death will be put out there."

Image caption Marie Ferguson says her family has been through "18 years of hell" since Raychel's death

Last year an inquiry into the deaths of five children in Northern Ireland hospitals, including Raychel, found her death was avoidable.

The 14-year-long Inquiry Into Hyponatraemia-related Deaths was heavily critical of the "self-regulating and unmonitored" health service.

In his report, Mr Justice O'Hara found there was a "reluctance among clinicians to openly acknowledge failings" in Raychel's death.

He said Raychel's death was the result of "negligent care".

'Leaving no stone unturned'

In 2013, the Western Health and Social Care Trust admitted liability for her death.

"I often sit and think: Do the doctors and nurses and the legal advisors ever sit and think was this worth it?" said Mrs Ferguson.

"They have put us through 18 years of hell.

Image caption An inquiry found that Raychel Ferguson's death was avoidable

"They might have thought we were going to give up - perhaps they can see now how important our only daughter was to us as a family.

"I will fight and leave no stone unturned until the full and absolute truth of what happened to her is out there."

Raychel's father Ray said he and his wife had never come to terms with the loss of their daughter.

"We can't put into words how difficult it is - we miss her every minute of every day," he added.

"You learn to live with it, try to cope but the hurt is always there."

Desmond Doherty, solicitor for the Ferguson family, said he thought it was a "positive decision" to hold the new inquest and he "welcomed it wholeheartedly".

He told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster that the first inquest was "entirely inadequate".

"In 2003 when the first inquest was held it was a fairly short finding, a factual finding, but what will happen now, I anticipate, is that there will be a more narrative finding by any coroner who hears this case, because of the wealth of information that now exists," he said.

"It will be a much more detailed finding as to exactly medically what happened."

More on this story