RTÉ receives 31 formal complaints about Late Late Show segment featuring 'birthing simulator'

Lucina gives birth on the Late Late Show, RTE One

Melanie Finn and Eilish O'Regan

RTE say they have received 31 formal complaints in the wake of the Late Late Show airing a controversial segment featuring a birthing simulator called Lucina.

A spokeswoman said they won't be commenting any further but confirmed that they had received dozens of complaints about the item, which was broadcast on Friday night. They also received lots of feedback on social media as the item met with a decidedly mixed reaction.

Eyebrows were raised after a teaching robot - named Lucina -  was brought into the studio to demonstrate to viewers how medical students learn about child-birth and labour as part of their training.

Master of the Rotunda Hospital Professor Fergal Malone was joined by Dr Catherine Finnegan, tutor and specialist registrar at the RSCI’s department of obstetrics and gynaecology, and medical student Ciara Malone, to simulate a delivery on national TV.

Host Ryan Tubridy interviewed Prof Malone for the item, as medical student Ciara demonstrated how the dummy 'gave birth'.

Neither the RCSI or the HSE would comment any further when contacted, given the reaction from the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Service Ireland (AIMS). The HSE did say the subject was a matter for RTÉ.

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AIMS Ireland said it is disappointed and dismayed at the "poor judgment" expressed by the Late Late Show editorial team for Friday’s segment on birth.

“As the representative body for maternity service users in Ireland, AIMS calls on RTÉ to apologise and also looks to the Broadcasting Authority to comment on the piece,” said a spokeswoman.

She said the segment which showed robot Lucina, lying on a bed with her entire lower half exposed whilst she was told to “push into her bum” and “keep going” by a medical student in order to produce a fake baby out of her fake body.

“There are so many things wrong here it’s hard to know where to begin.

“But let us start with the recent coverage of birth trauma on RTE Radio’s Liveline programme.  In an unprecedented move, and due to the sheer volume of calls, Liveline aired the stories of people all over Ireland over seven days.

“Those who shared their stories were for once uninhibited, and given a voice to tell their experiences within the maternity services. We heard harrowing stories of lack of empathy, insensitivity, lack of evidence based care and in some cases obstetric violence.

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"The empathy, kindness and respect shown by Joe Duffy and his team to these, in some cases, ‘broken’ women was highly commendable and heartening and many of the contributors noted this.

“Then, only weeks later, the same broadcaster, RTÉ, decides to depict this very same style of birth ‘management’ as ‘entertainment’ on a prime time entertainment show.

“Airing a piece like this without ANY regard to how this might affect women and their families who have had difficult maternity experiences demonstrates a complete wilful disregard for women in the most vulnerable of circumstances.

“It was an appalling error of judgement on the part of the editorial team,” she said.

RTÉ declined to comment specifically on the statement by AIMS.