• Monday, October 02, 2023

Riya Hirani death: Coroner urges to implement Martha’s Rule

Nine-year-old Riya was discharged from Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow last year

By: Pramod Thomas

A coroner has urged to implement the Martha’s Rule following the tragic death of nine-year-old who succumbed to a Strep A infection shortly after being sent home from the hospital with a diagnosis of tonsillitis.

Riya Hirani was discharged from Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow with instructions for over-the-counter pain relief, even though her parents had pleaded for antibiotics due to the ongoing Strep A outbreak, the Times reported.

In December last year, Riya’s parents took her to the hospital based on advice from NHS 111, as she had a three-day fever, a red throat, and difficulty while speaking.

However, the Senior House Officer (SHO) who examined her deemed her condition as not very serious and diagnosed her with viral tonsillitis.

The following evening, Riya’s mother, Geeta Hirani, noticed white pus at the back of her daughter’s throat and decided to return to the hospital.

As they were leaving, Riya’s father, Mukesh, thought she was choking and attempted to pat her on the back.

Tragically, Riya collapsed and experienced cardiac arrest, resulting in severe brain damage. She passed away five days later at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Despite her tragic passing, Riya’s organs went on to save the lives of four other children.

The Martha’s Rule seeks to provide families and patients with the unequivocal right to seek a second opinion if they feel their concerns are not being adequately addressed.

It was named after Martha Mills, a young girl who tragically lost her life two years ago due to sepsis at King’s College Hospital in south London.

Both the government and the Labour Party have committed to introducing this rule.

Martha’s parents, Merope Mills and Paul Laity, have been spearheading the campaign for the rule, emphasising the need for a dedicated hotline that allows individuals to voice their concerns about the care they receive, potentially preventing future tragedies.

Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for inner north London, delivered a harrowing verdict, stating that Riya’s life could have been spared had she received antibiotics during her initial hospital visit.

She emphasised that Riya exhibited clear signs and symptoms of a bacterial infection on that fateful night.

Dr Mahmud Benoune, who has since left Northwick Park Hospital, explained during the inquest that while he noted Riya’s inflamed tonsils, he did not consider them to be “severely inflamed,” which is one of the five essential criteria for diagnosing strep A.

Coroner Hassell vowed to issue two prevention of future death reports, one to Northwick Park Hospital and another to Steve Barclay, the health secretary, strongly recommending the immediate implementation of Martha’s Rule.

“We were literally leaving and she stood up and said she could not breathe. It was so quick. I do not understand how it could happen so quick,” Riya’s mother was quoted as saying during an inquest into her daughter’s death at St Pancras Coroner’s Court last week.

“She was very active, loved to sing and dance, and do arts and crafts. She was a bright and smart girl. She adored Lego. She would spend hours playing with her little sister, making up characters with her Lego. She had a very mature understanding of the world.”

Geeta stressed to the doctor during the inquest that Riya was struggling to speak, another potential indicator of strep A.

Reflecting on their journey to parenthood, Riya’s parents shared the joy they experienced after successfully conceiving through a ten-year IVF struggle.

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