Thursday 22 August 2019

State will cover private clinic in legal claim over tragic abortion

Solicitor Caoimhe Haughey. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Solicitor Caoimhe Haughey. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The State Claims Agency has confirmed it will provide legal cover for a private clinic which will be included in a legal claim brought by the couple at the centre of the tragic abortion case in the National Maternity Hospital.

Merrion Fetal Health, which is owned by a number of obstetricians working in the hospital, is situated nearby and it provides a range of services to fee-paying pregnant women including tests and scans.

The couple went ahead with a termination of pregnancy in March after being told a test result showed their unborn baby had a fatal foetal abnormality and would not survive.

A more advanced test result, after the procedure, showed the baby was healthy.

Legal proceedings on their behalf are to be taken against the hospital and the clinic by their solicitor Caoimhe Haughey.

In a parliamentary response to Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín, Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed the State Claims Agency would provide legal cover to the private clinic.

He said the agency has a statutory remit to manage personal injury claims, including claims in respect of clinical negligence, on behalf of delegated State authorities, including the HSE.

"I understand from the State Claims Agency that the clinic is covered under the indemnification provided to the National Maternity Hospital," he added.

Questioned on the basis for providing this cover, a spokeswoman for the State Claims Agency said: "The Merrion Fetal Clinic comprises part of the National Maternity Hospital and provides professional medical services on its behalf to both public and private patients."

It is understood the first screening test for a fatal foetal abnormality was carried out in the private clinic.

The follow-on diagnostic test involving Chorionic villus sampling was performed in the hospital.

The first reading of the test showed their unborn baby had trisomy 18, known as Edwards syndrome.

However, a more advanced investigation of the sample later found the baby was healthy.

An external review of the circumstances of the case is to proceed with a panel of specialists from the United Kingdom and a doctor who has an expertise in foetal medicine from the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin.

Ms Haughey said they were upset that the panel was assembled without consulting the couple.

However, she said they want to ensure they have input into the terms of reference for the review.

The findings are expected to have wide ranging implications for the operation of the new abortion legislation which came into effect in January this year.

A full report on the first year of how the legislation was performed at GP and hospital level will be available until early 2020.

Irish Independent

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