Wednesday 20 February 2019

Abortion for fatal foetal abnormality ‘denied in hospital’

Deeply upset woman told TD that 'this is not what I voted for, I have constitutional rights'

Allegation: Coombe Hospital was said to have denied an abortion. Photo: PA
Allegation: Coombe Hospital was said to have denied an abortion. Photo: PA

Cormac McQuinn and Eilish O'Regan

A distraught woman whose unborn baby was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality was refused a termination at one of the country's biggest maternity hospitals, it was claimed yesterday.

The woman who was attending the Coombe hospital in Dublin was certified by two doctors as eligible for an abortion under the new legislation, which has been in operation for nearly three weeks.

It's understood the woman was 13 weeks into her pregnancy.

The Dáil was told the termination was turned down by the hospital board and the woman was informed she should wait for four weeks until she had a miscarriage.

The explosive allegation was made in the Dáil by Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs Ruth Coppinger and Bríd Smith. Ms Coppinger told the Dáil she was contacted by a woman "who has a fatal foetal abnormality that has been certified by two consultants".

Ms Coppinger claimed the Coombe Hospital denied her a termination.

Claims: Bríd Smith of People Before Profit, deputy for Dublin South-Central, at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Claims: Bríd Smith of People Before Profit, deputy for Dublin South-Central, at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

"Instead they have told her that she must wait another four weeks to see if there is a spontaneous miscarriage.

"At 13 weeks this woman went for her 12-week scan and they could clearly see at that point that the organs of the foetus were outside of the body. They brought her back a week later where that was fully confirmed when they got a better image.

"One doctor, her consultant and another consultant was brought in who said, yes, it is a fatal foetal abnormality but a week later, it went to the board, and the board over-ruled that," Ms Coppinger said.

Her party colleague, Bríd Smith, said she spoke to the woman who is "pregnant with a much-wanted baby. But she has been told by her doctors, you can go to England. Her words to me were: 'This was not what I voted for, I have constitutional rights'. She finds it hard to sleep knowing that the condition that her much wanted child is in."

Last night, the Coombe insisted its board had no involvement in determining whether the criteria for an abortion had been met.

In a statement, the hospital said that while it did not comment on individual cases, it insisted its board "has had no role in determining whether or not the criteria for certification have been met. Those reports are untrue."

The Department of Health confirmed Health Minister Simon Harris is aware of the case. It pointed to Section 11 of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 which sets out the law on access to termination of pregnancy in cases "where there is a condition present affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus before or within 28 days of birth."

The operation of the legislation is entirely a matter for attending clinicians.

Neither the Minister nor the Department of Health has any role in the medical management of cases, said officials.

Orla O'Connor, director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, said: "The Master of the Coombe Hospital must provide immediate clarity on the position of the hospital in providing for a termination".

"The legislation is clear; two doctors are required to certify a termination. As reported in this case, the two doctors were in agreement, however an abortion has been denied. This must be a very distressing situation for the woman who had no option but to contact her public representatives."

"The full facts of the decisions made in the Coombe Hospital surrounding need to be made clear. This case has the potential for widespread anxiety for women in Ireland. The wishes of the woman and her doctor must be respected."

Irish Independent

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