14 Aug 2022

‘Too many questions and not enough answers’ after son’s death

The parents of a Kilkenny student who died one week after knee surgery say that their son’s death is “a waste of a life” and are calling for an independent enquiry into his death.

The parents of a Kilkenny student who died one week after knee surgery say that their son’s death is “a waste of a life” and are calling for an independent enquiry into his death.

Twenty-two-year-old Niall Comerford of 12 Fr Delahunty Terrace, Kilkenny, collapsed at Waterford Institute of Technology on October 1 – a week after he had undergone surgery to his knee for an ongoing problem.

At a Coroner’s Court in Waterford on Friday, his parents called for an independent probe into his death because they “would not have any faith in an internal HSE enquiry.”

The deceased, an accomplished kickboxer who fought at European title level, had surgery at Lourdes Orthopaedic Hospital, Kilcreene, just days before his death. He had been suffering with an injury to his knee due to a workplace accident.

At his inquest on Friday, Waterford City Coroner John Goff recorded a death of acute cardiac failure secondary to pulmonary failure, which was caused by deep vein thrombosis originating in his left calf.

After the hearing, Joan Comerford said that her son was released from Kilcreene following the operation “with a prescription for paracetamol and a discharge letter for the doctor.”

Her son was not given an after-care sheet that could detail possible symptoms, she said.

The deceased was due to go back for a check-up at Kilcreene 10 days after discharge, the inquest heard, but Ms Comerford said her son would not have known what symptoms to look for if his arteries began clotting.

“It just seems like such a waste of a life,” Ms Comerford said. “He really should not be in St Ciaran’s Cemetery today. ... He shouldn’t be there; he should be here with us. If he had the information about the symptoms, he would be alive today. We have absolutely no doubt about that.”

“He had a smile for everybody,” she said. “So many people had so many good things to say about him. He was thought very highly of by his peers and lecturers. People he worked in the dog track … they are all devastated by his death.”

In a statement at the court read out by barrister Michael Murray, the family said: “We feel that Niall’s case should be investigated more thoroughly by and independent body.

“We feel that an independent body such as HIQA (the Health Information and Quality Authority) or any other independent body would be suitable as the family would not have any faith in an internal HSE enquiry,” the statement said. “We feel there are too many questions pertaining to Niall’s death and not enough answers. We feel that (in) no way should a fit and healthy 22-year-old enter hospital for a procedure on his knee and die exactly seven days later.”

“We know the where, the when and the how he died but we are struggling with the why. So, it is for this reason, and in the interest of public safety, that this does not happen to any other family.”

The Health Service Executive was not represented at the inquest but is liaising with the family. The family is considering legal proceedings, according to their solicitor, Tony Canny.

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