Miscarriage scandal mums face delay in errors review
Published 12/10/2010 | 05:00
MOTHERS who were mistakenly told their unborn babies were dead face the prospect of a delay in finding out why they were given a wrong diagnosis.
The Irish Independent has learnt the Health Service Executive (HSE) review into cases where abortive surgery or drugs were mistakenly prescribed to mothers carrying healthy babies may not be finished until next spring -- months after the promised completion date.
Letters sent out to affected families in the past two weeks warned them they may not get answers for six months -- extending the conclusion of the review to late March. The review -- set up in June -- was due to be finished by December.
An HSE spokeswoman last night said the review could be completed on time but would not commit to a December deadline. She said six months was an "approximate timeframe", but added the review team was satisfied it could be completed on time.
The review was set up after this newspaper revealed the case of Melissa Redmond, who was wrongly told her unborn son Michael was dead, and after scores of other women went public with similar experiences.
Helplines for worried women were also set up, with more than 400 contacting maternity hospitals around the country.
The review is examining any case in the past five years where abortive drugs or surgery was prescribed when a miscarriage was diagnosed in error.
However, some mothers who made contact with the helplines have only received acknowledgement letters in the past two weeks -- and have been told they may have to wait a further six months to find out why they were wrongly told they had miscarried their babies.
One letter seen by the Irish Independent is dated September 29, and tells the family -- who do not wish to be identified -- their individual review "will be completed within the next six months at the latest", but does not give a definite date.
"You will be informed of the outcome of the review in advance of publication of any outcomes," the letter says.
The HSE claimed the letter may have been based on one sent to a different mother, and the six-month timeframe stayed the same even though it was sent to someone else.
And guidelines on how to manage early pregnancy loss in maternity wards and hospitals across the country have still not been put in place -- four months after the miscarriage misdiagnosis scandal.
The HSE said it would be issuing guidelines to all hospitals on how to deal with early pregnancy loss. However, the 'guidance document', which is being drawn up by Professor Michael Turner and the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, will not be ready until early next year at the earliest.
Commenting on the possible delay in finishing the review of all cases, Ms Redmond and her husband Michael said they were extremely disappointed.
However, all 19 public and private maternity units have adopted recommendations made in the aftermath of the scandal that a woman who has suffered a miscarriage must not be given abortive drugs or have surgery carried out unless the diagnosis has been approved by a consultant obstetrician.
The HSE spokeswoman said the review group was still working toward a six-month deadline and added it was unfair to speculate that the review may not be finished until the spring.