At least 24 mums told babies had died
Miscarriage misdiagnosis report due soon
A major HSE probe sparked by the miscarriage misdiagnosis scandal is investigating whether at least 24 pregnant women were wrongly told their babies were dead.
An inquiry group set up to review the controversy is examining 24 cases in advance of publishing its delayed report, due in the coming weeks.
The inquiry was initiated last year after the Irish Independent revealed the case of Melissa Redmond, a mother from Donabate, Co Dublin, who, following a scan at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, was told she had miscarried.
The latest details on the review are contained in a Department of Health briefing document presented to new minister Dr James Reilly.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said it was not possible to say whether any of the cases under examination resulted in a child being wrongly aborted. She said it was necessary to wait for the findings of the report.
Mrs Redmond was supplied with abortion-inducing medicine after she was told her baby was dead following the ultrasound scan, which was carried out on an out-of-date machine.
But she saved her son's life when she sought a second opinion from her local GP, who carried out another scan which showed her son Michael -- who celebrated his first birthday last month -- was still alive.
An outcry over the case led to hundreds of women contacting a helpline, and the inquiry, chaired by Professor William Ledger of the Royal College of Obstetrics in the UK, was set up last June.
The briefing document for Dr Reilly reveals that the review group was told of 32 possible cases by maternity hospitals and 24 of these were deemed to merit investigation.
Mrs Redmond's husband, Michael, last night told the Irish Independent: "I wouldn't be too surprised by that figure. There are 24 other families then who have gone through that."
The review's brief was to examine cases in the past five years where drugs or surgical treatment was recommended when a woman was given a diagnosis of miscarriage in error.
It was supposed to have completed its work in six months but it is only being finalised now and is expected to be published before the summer.
The Redmonds and others have expressed frustration with the slow progress of the review. Mr Redmond said they met with hospital representatives in January but had still not met Prof Ledger as was promised.
Martha Brennan, from Athenry, Co Galway, also followed her "gut instinct" and got a second opinion after being told by her gynaecologist that her unborn baby was dead.
Ms Brennan last night said she was informed by her maternity hospital that the report would be finished in January.
"When you say January, you mean January," Ms Brennan said. "You can maybe let it go into February. But it's now April and I've got no phone call."
There are more than 70,000 births annually in Ireland and around 14,000 miscarriages. In the case of Mrs Redmond there were no trained scan staff attached to the Drogheda unit. And there were no written guidelines for the investigation of early pregnancy problems.
But all 19 public and private maternity units have adopted recommendations made in the aftermath of the scandal that a woman who has suffered a miscarriage must not be given abortive drugs unless the diagnosis has been approved by a consultant obstetrician.