Tuesday 25 June 2019

Baby at centre of latest abortion case ‘has 20-30pc chance’ of normal life

Dr Sam Coulter Smith
Dr Sam Coulter Smith

Brian O'Reilly & Louise Kelly

THE baby at the centre of the country’s latest abortion case has just a 20-30pc chance of growing up without any health issues, a leading expert has said.

Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Sam Coulter Smith said the baby will face ‘enormous’ health challenges.

“I think the challenges are enormous. A baby born at 24 or 25 weeks is going to spend a long period of time in neonatal intensive care”, he told Sean O’Rourke on Radio One this morning.

“That’s a huge cost to the health service, probably in the order of €60-90k,.

“The baby will probably stay for 15 or 16 weeks in intensive care.

“Most of these babies will survive, 80-90pc of them will survive. - but only 20 -30 pc will have intact survival.”

He added that many of the babies will grow up with significant health problems.

“You’ve not only got the cost of care in the acute stage, but you’ve got the long term issues which can arrive.

“They can be mild learning difficulties to physical issues to cerebral palsy to death – there’s long term respiratory morbidity as well. There are very significant issues to survival of babies at this gestation.”

He added that the abortion laws brought in last year have helped somewhat, but there is still ambiguity in relation to the issue.

“I think the legislation when it was brought in was brought in to reassurance and give guidance to clinicians, and there are a couple of areas it did that very well.

“There are issues around the whole issue of suicide. There are issues around the gestation period at which you act - and the act is silent on that.

“There’s a lack of guidance in this area, especially at these borders of viability.

“If you deliver a baby at this very premature gestation then you’re going to have these ongoing problems.”

He also indicated the hospital has carried out terminations under the new abortion law.

However he said the hospital would not have acted differently before the Protection of Life in Maternity Act, 2013.

“We have had a couple of situations where we have had to act in situations to save mother’s lives,” he said.

Mr Coulter Smith said the same medical steps would have been taken before the law was passed but the legislation offers legal certainty.

He also said he would like to see the legislation around abortion being readdressed.

Meanwhile, the Association for the Improvement in the Maternity Services (AIMS) Ireland have spoken out against the "most recent appalling ordeal the Irish health and legal systems have forced a pregnant woman to endure".

Co-chair Jene Hinds Kelly maintains that the case highlights the "massive flaws" organisations such as AIMS have been highlighting with the Protection of Life in Pregnany Bill.

"Where is any care for her life and health and well-being in all of this horror? Why was her voice so ignored? Is she receiving appropriate after-care?" she asked.

Spokesperson for AIMS Sinead Redmond also commented on the "violations of women's rights and bodies in Irish maternity hospitals".

"Coerced c-sections are not a rarity in Irish maternity hospitals, and the concept of pregnant women needing to consent to what happens to their bodies is regarded as irrelevant by both the HSE and the courts," she said.

"It is time and beyond to repeal the 8th amendment."

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