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Inquest announced into deaths of new mothers from herpes after Caesarean sections by same surgeon.


An inquest is to be held into the deaths of two mothers who died from herpes shortly after giving birth.

Kim Sampson, 29, and Samantha Mulcahy, 32, gave birth by Caesarean section weeks apart at different hospitals in the East Kent NHS Trust in 2018.

A BBC investigation found the two women had been operated on by the same surgeon, and that he may have been the source of the infection

Herpes virus infections, known for causing cold sores or genital herpes, are extremely common and generally mild with deaths almost unheard of in healthy people.

However, in May 2018, Ms Sampson, a barber, became seriously ill after her baby was delivered at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital, Margate.

Doctors struggled to identify what had caused the infection but treated her as if she was suffering from sepsis caused by bacteria.

She was transferred to Kings College Hospital, London, where she was diagnosed with a catastrophic herpes infection. She died on 22 May 2018.

Six weeks later, Mrs Mulcahy, a nursery nurse, also died from an infection caused by the same virus, at the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford. The cause of her illness was not recognised until after she died.

The area coroner, Katrina Hepburn, wrote to the two families in 2019 to say that, as the women died of natural causes and she believed that nothing connected them, there would be no inquests.

But the BBC investigation discovered documents that showed the virus that infected the two women was genetically identical.

A sexual health consultant for more than 30 years, Peter Greenhouse, told the BBC the virus was likely to have entered the women's abdomens during their Caesarean sections.

In a new letter, seen by the BBC, coroner, Katrina Hepburn, says: "I am now of the view that there is reason to suspect that the infection may have arisen as a consequence of a necessary medical procedure, namely the Caesarean section, and in those circumstances, I have a statutory duty to investigate further."

The families of the two women have welcomed the announcement.

Kim Sampson’s mother, Yvette Sampson, said: "We've wanted this since Kim died in 2018. It has been a long time coming. We hope we are finally going to get answers to the questions we've always had both for ourselves and for Kim's children."

Samantha Mulcahy’s husband, Ryan, said: "Not knowing what happened has worsened the pain and the suffering from losing Sam".

Her mother hopes the inquest will help the families come to terms with what happened.

She said: "How did Sam and Kim get the virus, and from where? You feel like you are stuck and you can't move forward because you haven't got the answers you should have had."

Chief medical officer for East Kent Hospitals, Dr Rebecca Martin, said: ""We will do everything possible to support these inquests and our thoughts are with Kimberley and Samantha's families at this time."