Thursday 18 January 2018

‘I wouldn’t change my decision’- Irish mum who made heartbreaking decision to withdraw care of six-day-old baby

Annie Roche and her husband lost their daughter Aishling almost six years ago
Annie Roche and her husband lost their daughter Aishling almost six years ago
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

An Irish woman has opened up about the difficult decision she faced in the medical care of her newborn daughter who was diagnosed with five complex heart conditions soon after birth.

Annie Roche and her husband lost their daughter Aishling almost six years ago when she was just six days old and were faced with the decision to withdraw her medical care or proceed with complex palliative surgery which she was extremely unlikely to survive.

Speaking on Today FM’s Anton Savage Show, Annie, from Cork, said she made the decision to withdraw Aishling’s care because she did not want to prolong her daughter’s suffering.

Aishling was transferred from Cork to Crumlin Children’s Hospital two days after her birth where doctors told her parents that she was gravely ill and informed them of their options.

“In this meeting they explained to us what our options were,” said Annie.

“Which was basically telling us that there was no cure or there was nothing that could be done in a medical capacity. The only choices we had really were to withdraw her care or attempt some very difficult palliative care procedures. One in particular was a very major surgery.

“The way he put it to us was that it would be a whole day’s work and she’d be the only person in theatre that day until that night. It would have been a very long and difficult process and the chances of her surviving that major surgery when she was already in a very difficult position...

“For me the idea of watching her suffer was worse than the idea of losing her,” she said.

Speaking on the show, Annie addressed ongoing appeals to alter the constitution’s eight amendment and addressed campaigners who are of the opinion newborns are entitled to a “natural death”. The mum yesterday published her story on Twitter, which garnered much reaction.

“I’ve had people tweeting me that I should be grateful that she had a natural death and that that is the correct way to do things. There’s absolutely nothing natural about a baby’s death. In no way shape or form is there anything natural about watching a baby die.

“To use the word natural, it’s the wrong word. During the whole process we had to experience, the main concern for us parents was pain and suffering. Aishling and other babies like her are dosed up on morphine.

“It’s not as if they close their eyes and pass away in their sleep. It’s not the case. In the case of Aishling, when they withdraw the care and you don’t give them any assistance to breathe, they have to go through a death where they’re struggling to breathe and gasping for air.

“As an adult when you lose your breath is a terrifying experience. To see the panic in a newborn baby’s eyes as its struggling to breathe is not something that’s easy to watch.

“To see your baby turning blue before your eyes is not something that is easy to watch. When they discuss this ‘natural’, they’re not the people who have sat and witnessed that and live with those images. It is not easy. It is scary and heartbreaking,” said Annie.

The mum spoke about whether or not she would have travelled to the UK for a termination, had she known of Aishling’s condition prior to her birth and said the journey would have been unimaginable without the support of her family.

“With the way things are in this country and the legislation we have in place, no I would not have been willing to travel to the UK because I needed my family around me. I could not contemplate what it’s like to lose the people you need for emotional support around you,” she said.

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