Saturday 20 December 2014

Probe into pregnant rape teen's care to follow document trail

Eilish O'Regan 
and Mark O'Regan

Published 23/08/2014 | 02:30

22/8/14 A vigil held by the Pro Life Campaign outside the Dail in Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron
22/8/14 A vigil held by the Pro Life Campaign outside the Dail in Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron

AN inquiry into how the health service and other agencies handled the case of the young suicidal asylum seeker at the centre of the abortion controversy will track her care from her first contact to the delivery of her baby.

The inquiry is to begin immediately - with the team aiming to complete the report as quickly as possible.

The terms of reference for the inquiry were agreed between the Health Service Executive and the woman's legal representatives last night.

The woman, who claims she was raped in her home country, arrived in Ireland as an asylum seeker earlier this year.

A medical assessment confirmed she was around eight weeks' pregnant and she was referred to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA).

The IFPA said it contacted the HSE expressing concern about her mental state. However it was not until she went to see a GP at 22 weeks into her pregnancy that her request for an abortion under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was processed.

The three doctors said she was suicidal, but opted to deliver rather than abort her baby at 25 weeks, despite her demand for an abortion.

The baby is now in an incubator in a neonatal unit. The Pro Life Campaign last night launched a special fund for the baby at a vigil in Dublin.

The HSE said the purpose of the inquiry is to establish all of the factual circumstances and the sequence of events as they relate to her care including her mental health.

It will examine and document the chain of communication between different service providers, including referrals between services and the flow of information related to her both internally in the HSE and externally.

"In the event that any failings in service delivery are identified, the report is to identify the causes and contributory factors."

The inquiry will be chaired by the HSE's head of patient safety Dr Philip Crowley and will include Catriona Molloy, of Patient Focus.

It will also include Alice O'Flynn, retired assistant national director, social inclusion, HSE, and Mick Brophy, former senior investigator in the Office of the Ombudsman.

The draft report will be subject to legal review before finalisation.

All efforts will be made to protect the anonymity of the girl in the report. The HSE will ensure that she will have legal representation in her participation in the preparation of the report, and that it will fund this legal advice.

She will be given copies of any documents used by the reporting team in the preparation of the report and will be given a draft copy of the report, on a strictly confidential basis, prior to its being finalised.

The Pro Life Campaign group, meanwhile, vowed to make abortion a key issue in the next general election - and refused to rule out running candidates of their own in marginal constituencies.

It will also try and force all outgoing TDs to make public their stance on the abortion issue before polling day.

In an effort to put increased pressure on TDs and Senators, some 350 Pro Life activists held a vigil outside the Dail yesterday evening. They carried a range of anti-abortion placards and banners, making clear the organisation's intentions, to politicise the issue as much as possible.

Caroline Simons, legal consultant to the Pro Life Campaign, told the gathering that the push for more abortion has been "relentless" in the past week.

"But I sense there is a strong undercurrent of public revulsion at the way pro-choice groups sought to deny the humanity of the baby that is currently battling to survive," she said.

The special fund for the baby at the centre of the case was also launched at the vigil.

The money raised for the Little One Fund will be placed in a trust, to ensure the baby will receive the best medical care available, and to provide back-up for his or her future welfare and well-being.

In cases where a woman was raped, Maria Lonergan from Killiney, south Dublin, said she still believes it is "wrong for another individual to end another human being's life."

She added: "If she wants to give the baby up for adoption, then that service must be there for her as well."

Irish Independent

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