Paul Laity asks: Can I forgive myself for my daughter’s death?

by | Sep 5, 2023 | Bereavement Articles

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Paul Laity, father of Martha Mills, writes a heartfelt and beautifully written article in the Observer reflecting on the needless death of his 13 year old daughter.  He grapples with the guilt surrounding Martha’s death in 2021, asking himself whether he can ever forgive himself – something that will be familiar to many SLOW bereaved parents.

My primal, existential role was to protect my child, to keep her alive – and I failed. Most bereaved parents know a version of this feeling. It’s one of the reasons losing a child can be different from other types of grief. Not only is such a death an inversion of the natural order. And not only was Martha denied anything that resembled a full life (“She had so many plans,” her sister, Lottie, said.) But I was responsible for her welfare during all of her short life. So when I went to see Martha’s body, post-autopsy, at the undertakers, what I howled was: “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

Paul Laity

All photos courtesy of Merope Mill and Paul Laity

Paul, and his partner Merope Mills, are now campaigning for Martha’s Rule which would give patients the right to call for an urgent second opinion.  The NHS ombudsman and Labour are supporting their campaign.

We’d like to see Martha’s Rule introduced across the UK hospital system. This initiative would effectively formalise the process of asking for a second opinion from a different team (usually critical care or ICU) when a patient, or a family member or carer, is anxious that deterioration isn’t getting an adequate response. Martha’s Rule is essentially a “patient and family activated escalation system”– one that, in a crisis, would enable patients to have their voices more clearly heard.

Merope Mills
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