The couple at the centre of the tragic abortion case at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street have personally written to Taoiseach Micheál Martin outlining their distress that a review of the case is still unable to get under way.
The couple were told in March last year, after two tests, that their much-wanted unborn baby had a fatal foetal abnormality and would not survive.
This led to the harrowing decision to have a termination, but they were left distraught when a more advanced test later showed the baby was healthy.
In a letter written to Mr Martin last month, they said: “As grieving parents we must have full trust and confidence in the process and at present we do not.”
They feared they were being “kept in the dark” regarding critical, ongoing communications between the Department of Health and the hospital.
They added their assertion that it is a “sad state of affairs that the review process has become so adversarial” and they criticised the hospital’s handling of the matter.
“Indeed, it does appear the only way we will get real answers is through the courts,” the letter, seen by the Irish Independent, reveals.
It is too “hard to bear” that issues regarding the release of medical records and other correspondence remains unresolved, they added.
They told the Taoiseach that they “continue to have every faith in you as you are the only one who has really listened to us”.
Referring to a proposed meeting they were invited to by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and his officials, they said: ”We honestly believe the only way the review process can be progressed is if you or someone from your department can also attend the meeting with the minister.”
The letter was acknowledged by the Taoiseach’s office.
The review, which is overseen by the hospital, was due to get underway last year but it was held up due to various issues including alleged conflict of interest as well as requests by the couple’s legal team for the release of more medical records.
The couple wanted the review to be carried out by the National Women and Infants Health Programme in the HSE under Dr Peter McKenna as clinical lead.
They has previously requested that Dr McKenna, an obstetrician at the Rotunda Hospital, chair the review but this did not materialise, although he is a member of the team.
The proposed chair is obstetrician and gynecologist Myles Taylor, nominated by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
A meeting with Mr Donnelly and his officials was scheduled for late September but was postponed due to fears about Covid-19.
Further correspondence from Mr Donnelly’s office to the couple’s solicitor, Caoimhe Haughey, last month said the minister and his department offers the couple sincere condolences on the tragic incident. It also included some correspondence but not all between the department and Holles St which Ms Haughey said has raised new concerns.
Ms Haughey has received some of the outstanding medical records but is still awaiting more and the matter is with the Data Protection Commissioner.
A complaint has also been made to the Medical Council.
They have also written to each member of the hospital board. Ms Haughey said an online meeting is now planned with the minister in the coming weeks. But she has expressed concern at the proposed attendance of one of his advisers in light of the couple’s decision not to go public with their identity.
A spokeswoman for Mr Donnelly said he is setting up a meeting with the family with a view to identifying possible ways to move forward.
Ms Haughey said: “The couple are understandably exhausted by this process which has been mired by an ongoing lack of open disclosure and transparency from the beginning.
“We are now coming close to the second anniversary of the tragedy with no end in sight.”
The majority of the 6,666 pregnancies terminated in Ireland last year involved women availing of medical abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. It was the first full year of the legislation widening the grounds for abortion following the 2018 referendum.
The legislation allows for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Medical abortions up to 12 weeks accounted for 6,542 of the abortions here last year.
Termination is also permitted in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and where there is a risk to the life or health of the woman. There were 100 abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormality last year.
Another 21 were performed where there was a risk to the life or health of the mother. A further three were carried out on these grounds as emergencies.
The first annual report on the operation of the legislation, the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act, showed 6,666 pregnancies were terminated.
This compared to 2,879 involving women who travelled to UK clinics for abortions in 2018. It is unclear if the liberalising of the legislation here led to a real increase in abortions or whether the UK figures were an under-representation.