Liability conceded in case of couple ‘wrongly advised’ to terminate pregnancy

High Court action over fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis to proceed as assessment of damages only

Rebecca Price and Patrick Kiely, from Phibsborough, Dublin, leaving the Four Courts on Tuesday. Photograph: Collins Courts

Rebecca Price and Patrick Kiely, from Phibsborough, Dublin, leaving the Four Courts on Tuesday. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Liability has been admitted in a case taken by a couple who claimed a healthy pregnancy was terminated as a result of them being wrongly advised their baby had a fatal foetal abnormality.

Rebecca Price and Patrick Kiely, from Phibsborough, Dublin, have brought separate High Court cases arising from the termination of the life of their unborn son, whom they named Christopher Joseph Kiely.

After talks on Tuesday between the sides, Mr Justice Paul Coffey was told that the defendants – consultants, Peter McParland, Fionnuala McAuliffe, Rhona Mahony, Shane Higgins and Stephen Carroll who operate under a business partnership called the Merrion Fetal Health Clinic, as well as the National Maternity Hospital and a Glasgow laboratory, the Greater Glasgow Health Board – have conceded liability in full and the only issue now before the court is an assessment of damages.

Counsel for the couple Richard Kean SC, with Liam Reidy SC and Esther Earley, thanked the court for the time given for the talks and said it had been “very cathartic” for the couple.

Consultants sued

In their action, the couple said they were delighted to find themselves expecting their first child on Christmas Eve 2018 with an estimated delivery date in early September 2019.

Ms Price (38) said that, on February 21st, 2019, she had a completely normal ultrasound scan at 12 weeks and was advised a week later that a non-invasive prenatal test, known as a Harmony test, had been positive for Trisomy 18.

Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome, is a rare chromosomal condition affecting how long a baby may survive, with most babies dying before or shortly after birth.

She said she underwent a second ultrasound scan which was also completely normal and was then advised by the clinic to undergo Chorionic Villus Sampling.

Her samples were sent to the Glasgow laboratory for testing and she was advised a rapid result from the testing revealed Trisomy 18 had been detected.

Followed advice

During a consultation on March 11th, 2019, she said she was wrongly advised by her consultant Fionnuala McAuliffe on matters including the non-viability of her pregnancy and that her baby had a fatal foetal abnormality. She said she followed advice to terminate her pregnancy which occurred three days later.

The result of a full Karotype analysis or chromosome analysis was later furnished to the defendants which revealed the foetus had a normal male Karotype and did not have Trisomy 18. That result was readily explained, it was claimed, by the “well-recognised” phenomenon of confined placental mosaicism – meaning the abnormal cells were confined to the placenta.

It was further claimed that Ms Price and Mr Kiely were wrongly assured the discordant result would not have changed advice to terminate the pregnancy had it been available pre-termination.

On learning the result of the full Karotype, Ms Price said she suffered intense nervous shock, having realised she had terminated “a normal, healthy baby”.

In the case it was claimed there was a failure to refer Ms Price and her partner for appropriate genetic counselling to enable them to be advised accurately and comprehensively prior to making any decision to terminate the pregnancy.

Ms Price has been left with a devastating sense of loss which nothing and nobody can fill and she experienced what she describes as an all consuming physical and mental trauma that has consumed her ever since.

Mr Kiely will carry the painful loss of his son with him throughout his life.