Claire Roberts family speak of anguish as doctor accused of 'cover up' bids to halt proceedings

Nine-year-old Claire Roberts died in hospital in 1996 from hyponatraemia

By Gareth Wilkinson

The family of a hyponatraemia victim say they are going through "mental torment" as the doctor accused of covering up their daughter's death attempts to halt the tribunal proceedings against her.

Doctor Heather Steen has applied to be voluntarily struck off the medical register on health grounds.

If successful, that would end proceedings the pediatrician faces at a fitness to practice tribunal.

Dr Steen is accused of a number of failures surrounding the death of nine year old Claire Roberts, which she denies.

The little girl died after contracting hyponatraemia in the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children in 1996.

Claire's parents, Alan and Jennifer Roberts, were told at the time a viral infection had spread from her stomach to her brain and that medics had done everything possible to save her.

However, 22 years later, a public inquiry concluded she died due to "negligent care" from an overdose of fluids and medication.

Doctor Steen failed with a similar application to be struck off as the tribunal began last March.

Tuesday's hearing heard claims that Dr Steen’s health had deteriorated.

Her legal representative will present evidence on her condition evidence in a private session

The General Medical Council is fighting Doctor Steen’s application.

The GMC has also asked a medical expert to examine a report into the state of Dr Steen’s health.

Inquiry into hyponatraemia related deaths

The tribunal is expected to make a ruling next week.

Claire's father Alan Roberts told UTV: “We are disappointed but not shocked.

"Our family is being put through mental torment.

"Any further delay to the tribunal causes us increased anxiety.

"As a family we are frustrated as we are trying to get progress and eventual justice for Claire."

It’s the third time Dr Steen has attempted to halt the tribunal.

Her legal council had argued there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

That application also failed.

Dr Steen has retired from the Belfast Trust.

In 1996 she was the doctor in charge when Claire Roberts died from Hyponatremia.

The fatal condition was caused by the incorrect administration of fluids.

During her evidence to the Hyponatraemia Inquiry in 2012, Dr Steen denied claims of a cover up.

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