Coombe hospital says board has no role in certifying terminations

Two TDs tell Dáil a woman was denied abortion ‘despite consultants’ approval’

The Coombe hospital has denied its board overruled the decision of two consultants to approve an abortion for a pregnant woman who discovered her foetus has a fatal abnormality.

The denial came after two TDs told the Dáil the woman had been denied an abortion despite the consultants’ approval.

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger and People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith raised the case with Tánaiste Simon Coveney on Thursday.

“I want to raise what I believe is the first test case for the new abortion legislation. I have been contacted by a woman who has a fatal foetal abnormality that has been certified by two consultants,” Ms Coppinger said.


“Now it appears the board of the Coombe hospital is refusing her constitutional right that we all voted for to have an abortion at a time she chooses.

“Instead they have told her that she must wait another four weeks to see if there is a spontaneous miscarriage. At 13 weeks this woman went for her 12-week scan and they could clearly see at that point that the organs of the foetus were outside of the body. They brought her back a week later where that was fully confirmed when they got a better image.

“One doctor, her consultant, and another consultant was brought in who said yes, it is a fatal foetal abnormality but a week later it went to the board, and the board overruled that,” Ms Coppinger said.

Fearful of criminalisation

Ms Coppinger said the decision may have been taken because doctors are fearful of criminalisation, and she said the woman in question is considering travelling to England.

“It would seem to me that it is because of the chilling effect of criminalisation that maternity hospitals are acting this way.”

The allegations made by the two TDs concerning the private medical details of a patient have caused concern among many doctors. "In the context of patient confidentiality, doctors and hospitals find themselves in an impossible situation of having to say nothing in public about claims being made by politicians in the Dáil about the medical treatment of individual patients," one obstetrician told The Irish Times last night.

While the Coombe hospital said it could not comment on individual cases, for both ethical and legal reasons, it said the board did not have an input into certification for terminations.

“The board of guardians and directors of the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital has no role whatsoever in certifying a termination of pregnancy,” a statement said.

“Insofar as recent media coverage has stated that the board has had a role in determining whether or not the criteria for certification have been met, those reports are untrue.”

The Department of Health said yesterday evening that the Coombe is in a position to provide abortion care to women with fatal foetal abnormalities.

“The department has been advised that the Coombe hospital is currently providing terminations in emergency situations and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

“The National Women and Infants Health Programme continues to engage with the Dublin Midlands Health Group and the Coombe hospital with a view to ensuring full commencement of service provision as soon as possible.”

They said Minister for Health Simon Harris was aware of the case but could not comment.

“The operation of the legislation is entirely a matter for attending clinicians. Neither the Minister nor the Department of Health has any role in the medical management of cases. In addition, the board of any institution, including that of the Coombe, has no role in such decision-making. However, it is clear that where a patient requires care not available in a particular location, the patient should be transferred to a hospital or service where the necessary care is available.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times