Wednesday 23 October 2019

Doctor who signed off on abortion in 'tragic' termination case never met or examined mother, Dáil hears

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Stock picture

Kevin Doyle and Eilish O'Regan

A doctor who signed off on an abortion in the belief an unborn child had a fatal foetal abnormality never examined or met the mother, it has been claimed.

A couple at the centre of the case involving the National Maternity Hospital believe an "illegal abortion" was carried out, the Dáil was told.

In March, a termination of the pregnancy was performed after the parents were informed the child would not survive outside the womb.

The couple said they were advised that their baby had Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome. It followed the results of two of three tests.

However, the results of a third more detailed test, which came back after a termination was carried out, found there was no abnormality present.

Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín told the Dáil that having spoken with a legal representative for the family he had serious concerns about the "desperately tragic case".

"The family was falsely told that the child had a fatal foetal abnormality. The couple claim that their child would be with them today if it were not for the actions of the hospital," Mr Tóibín said.

"They state that it was an illegal abortion and that the medical practitioners who signed off on the abortion never examined or met the mother in advance of the abortion. If that is the case, it is contrary to the law brought in by the Government and it is illegal."

It is understood one of the doctors was clinically involved in the diagnosis.

The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act, which came into effect in January, refers to "two medical practitioners having examined the pregnant woman are of a reasonable opinion formed in good faith" that the foetus will not survive.

But the law does not make clear if both doctors have to physically examine the mother - or whether the second doctor must only satisfy themselves about confirming the diagnosis.

The family has called for an independent investigation. The hospital is to set up an external review after securing UK specialists through the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

In response, a spokesman for the hospital said despite statements in the Dáil, it is actively engaged in commissioning an external review of the case.

The family were informed that RCOG had been requested to perform the external review, but they were not in a position to do so.

"Since then significant progress has been made with RCOG in respect of membership of the external review and the terms of reference and we hope to be in a position to finalise these shortly," it said.

"It was not the hospital's intention to comment but we felt it necessary to respond to matters stated under parliamentary privilege which the deputy suggests is an account given to him by a legal representative of the family."

Irish Independent

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