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I asked him what he saw and he said 'just bits and bobs - no heartbeat'

A brand new kind of hell for the women who will always be wondering if they were told to remove a healthy baby.

It's unthinkable. But you'd still think about it, if you were in that situation. You wouldn't want to. But you'd think of the scan showing blurry blobs you were not competent to judge for yourself.

You'd think of the comments made after a long, threatening silence, indicating your baby was no longer alive. If you were once told your baby was dead in the womb, you'll think the unthinkable for the rest of your life.

Two women rejected the recommendation that they have a D+C to remove the fragments of "unviable foetuses". They were sure they were still pregnant, and they were right.



Grim

In one case, an anonymous hero, a local GP who had equipped his health centre with more up-to-date equipment than the hospital owned, broadcast the sound of the "dead" baby's healthy heartbeat around the room, proving just how valid its mother's instinct was.

Many other women will have listened to a grim diagnosis of an unviable foetus and been told to come back to have the fragments of that foetus removed. They will have made that sad journey and ended up childless. Some of those women will have gone on to have healthy babies at a later stage. Some may not.

But all have one thing in common, as a result of Melissa Redmond's revelations: the horrific possibility that their baby was not dead and that its life was ended at the behest of high tech equipment past its use-by date.

The reality is that, today, every woman, no matter where she lives, who acted on advice that the baby in her womb was dead, will be in agony at the idea that it was alive all the time. But it's worse than that. There will be blame, there, too.

Blame is a strange and slithery thing. It doesn't always stay where it should -- in this case with the machinery that didn't work and the medics who didn't make the right calls. Blame will come knocking on the hearts of women who didn't do what Melissa Redmond and Martha O'Neill Brennan did. The stories of those bright, courageous and argumentative mothers fill the rest of us with simple admiration.

But for women who underwent a D+C, believing their baby to be dead, that admiration will be linked with the awful grinding possibility that if they, too, had refused to accept the advice they were given, they, too, might have had a healthy baby.

When they read that roughly half of the pregnant women who continue with a pregnancy, having been advised that their baby may be dead eventually deliver live babies, their misery will be exacerbated.

They will turn to the pictures of lively three year old Aaron and of baby Michael, and they will weep in rage at a system that may have failed them and their unborn baby. Their rage will be made worse by not knowing for sure -- and they'll never know for sure.



Waffled

Outdated machines when Ireland was rich enough to buy replacements is bad enough.

Consultants coming to the wrong conclusion is worse.

That one consultant, presented with evidence proving him wrong, waffled about a colleague having the same experience but didn't apologise or promise to take action is worse still.

But worst of all is the misery visited on women who believed their baby was dead. And who, for the rest of their lives, will wonder if their baby could have lived.

That's a new brand of hell.


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