“At the start of last summer, my 13-year-old daughter Martha was busy with life. She’d meet her friends in the park, make silly videos on her phone and play “kiss, marry, kill”. Her days were filled with books and memorising song lyrics. She’d wonder aloud if she might become an author, an engineer or a film director. Her future was brimming with promise, crowded with plans.
By the end of the summer she was dead, after shocking mistakes were made at one of the UK’s leading hospitals.
What follows is an account of how Martha was allowed to die, but also what happens when you have blind faith in doctors – and learn too late what you should have known to save your child’s life. What I learned, I now want everyone to know. In a small way, I hope Martha’s story might change how some people think about healthcare; it might even save a life.
I am a fierce supporter of the principles of the NHS and realise how many excellent doctors are practising today. There’s no need for the usual political arguments: as the hospital in question has confirmed to me, what happened to Martha had nothing to do with insufficient resources or overstretched doctors and nurses; it had nothing to do with austerity or cuts, or a health service under strain.
No matter how many times I’m told that ‘it was the doctors’ job to look after Martha’, I know, deep down, that had I acted differently, she’d still be living, and my life would not now be broken. It’s not that I think I’m to blame: the hospital has admitted breach of duty of care and talked of a ‘catastrophic error’. But if I’d been more aware of how hospitals work and how some doctors behave, my daughter would be with me now.
As another bereaved parent told me, life after the death of your child is like being on an island, separate from the mainland where the ‘normal people’ live. You so badly want to go back there but you never can. You’re stuck on the island for ever.”
Learn more on ‘We had such trust, we feel such fools’: how shocking hospital mistakes led to our daughter’s death via The Guardian.