Friday 22 February 2019

100 infants a year born to mums on methadone in the Coombe

Tragic mother Selina Hall with baby Cian, who was treated at the Coombe Hospital.
Tragic mother Selina Hall with baby Cian, who was treated at the Coombe Hospital.

Up to 100 babies each year are born in the Coombe Hospital to mothers on methadone.

The figure was revealed at the inquest of baby Cian Hall, who was treated for withdrawal symptoms following his birth in February 2016.

Drugs are used to treat the infants born with withdrawal symptoms following exposure to opioids in the womb.

Baby Cian was treated successfully and released home, where he died due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome on the day after his release.

Prof Martin White, consultant neonatologist at the Coombe Hospital, told the inquest that up to 100 babies are born in withdrawal, having been exposed to drugs in the womb.

Coombe Hospital. Photo: Collins
Coombe Hospital. Photo: Collins


Half of the affected babies will remain on the ward for up to five weeks.

Around 25pc of them need medication to help them through withdrawal.

"We try to avoid giving medications to babies. Only around a quarter of the overall number will require medications," Prof White said.

"Some may stay on for up to five weeks while they are withdrawing from drugs they were exposed to in the womb."

Baby Cian's mother, Selina Hall, of Cherry Orchard, Dublin 10, was on a methadone programme along with prescribed medication, which prolonged the infant's withdrawal symptoms.

He was treated in the Coombe Hospital for six weeks before he was released home to live with his parents and four siblings.

"We try to get them home to their families when they are well. Cian was well," Prof White said.

Families receive training to administer phenobarbital, a sedative drug that works on the central nervous system.

The medication is used to settle the baby. Families are trained by medical staff at the Coombe Hospital before infants are discharged.

In baby Cian's case, his grandmother, Marie Daly, was trained to administer his medication in liquid form as part of his bottle feed.

Cian was discharged home at six weeks to live with his parents on April 5, 2016.

His grandmother arrived that evening to give him his medication. Around an hour-and-a-half later, the child was found un- responsive and taken to hos- pital. He died the next day.

A post-mortem report gave the cause of death as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

On the night before her own death three days later, his mother told relatives she wanted to enter rehabilitation to come off methadone. She was promised support to achieve this.

She was found dead in bed on the morning of April 9.

A post-mortem found she died due to multi-drug toxicity, with evidence of diazepam, methadone and alcohol in her system. The coroner returned a verdict of death by misadventure.


Her eldest daughter, Chloe Hall White, said her mother was loving, dedicated and devoted despite her addiction.

"She lived for her kids. She was a great mother. The methadone didn't stop her from being a brilliant mam. I never wanted for anything growing up," she said.

"She was on methadone but she was clean. She wanted to stop taking it. I know that she wouldn't have wanted to leave us but she was heartbroken over baby Cian. She couldn't live without him."

Ms Hall White has since given birth herself and said the loss of her mother is more difficult.

"I'd love to have her around now because she adored all of us and she would be a huge support to me now."

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