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IRELAND: Review continues into childbirth death of Zim mum; expert questions high maternal mortality for women of colour

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By Ann Murphy I Irish Examiner


Dr Murphy-Lawless said there needed to be answers on why a woman “in a fully equipped, up-to-date hospital in a highly developed western country” died shortly after giving birth to her healthy daughter.

IRELAND: A review into the death of a woman at University Hospital Kerry after giving birth to a healthy baby is continuing.

Zimbabwean native Tatenda Mukwata died at UHK on April 21 and was laid to rest in Kenmare.

She was a resident at the Atlantic Lodge direct provision centre in Kenmare and had been granted permission to stay in Ireland shortly before she died.

She is survived by her newborn baby girl, and three older daughters, as well as her parents and brother.

Her family members are now waiting for the review to be finalised.

A spokesman for the hospital said: “That review is ongoing and the County Coroner is also involved.”

Dr Jo Murphy-Lawless is a founding member of The Elephant Collective, which includes individuals and groups who have been affected by, or have concerns over, maternal deaths in Ireland.

She said of the 13 maternal death inquests held in Ireland between 2007 and 2022, six related to the deaths of women of colour.

She added: “We can now add Tatenda’s name to that list when her inquest takes place.”

There is no scheduled date for the opening of the inquest as yet.

The late Tatenda Mukwata

Under the Coroners Act 2019, an inquest is held into all maternal and late maternal deaths.

Dr Murphy-Lawless said there needed to be answers on why a woman “in a fully equipped, up-to-date hospital in a highly developed western country” died shortly after giving birth to her healthy daughter.

Deaths of women of colour

In a recent briefing paper for the Elephant Collective following the death of Ms Mukwata, Dr Murphy Lawless said:

“Especially troubling of the cases which have come to inquest is the number of women of colour who have died in our maternity services. Beginning with Bimbo Onanuga in 2010, we also have Dhara Kivlehan, Nora Hyland, Savita Halappanavar, Malak Thawley, and Nayyab Tariq.”

Mukwata had been working in Kerry in a nursing home and had planned further studies here.

During her funeral Mass in Kenmare, she was described by Fr George Hayes as a “vibrant and caring mother, a loving daughter, a dear friend” who had made many friends while living in the Kerry town.

He said she had been planning to do a course in nursing, adding that caring for others was part of her personality.

Fr Hayes said her death “can only leave us reeling — to see a young mother being snatched away before her time”.

A crowdfunding campaign was set up to help her young family.

A Garda (police) spokeswoman confirmed Tralee gardaí were preparing a file for the Coroner’s Office in relation to the death.