Dispute delaying abortion investigation goes to mediation

Couple had termination carried out at National Maternity Hospital after incorrect test result

The National Maternity Hospital and the couple have agreed to the involvement of a mediator to help resolve disagreements that have delayed by more than seven months the promised review into the circumstances of the termination. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The National Maternity Hospital and the couple have agreed to the involvement of a mediator to help resolve disagreements that have delayed by more than seven months the promised review into the circumstances of the termination. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

A mediator is to be appointed in a last-ditch effort to resolve disagreements that have delayed the investigation of an abortion carried out at the National Maternity Hospital last year.

Both the hospital and the couple involved have agreed to the involvement of a mediator to help resolve disagreements that have delayed by more than seven months the promised review into the circumstances of a termination carried out after an incorrect test result.

The mediator, expected to be a prominent senior barrister, will begin work on the case shortly.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has agreed to have a second meeting with the couple, probably later this month, according to their solicitor Caoimhe Haughey.

In the case, the couple received two test results indicating their baby had a fatal foetal anomaly, but a later test result, received after the termination had been carried out, showed it had no genetic condition. The woman was seen by only one obstetrician, despite legislation saying she should be examined by two.

After details of the termination emerged, the hospital agreed last May to hold an investigation into the circumstances. Despite both sides agreeing there are serious issues requiring further inquiry, the proposed investigation has yet to begin.

Review panel

The couple have objected to the composition of the review panel proposed by the hospital and have argued the investigating team should comprise experts who have no previous professional links to hospital staff, such as consultants from continental Europe.

The hospital has rejected this proposal, though it has agreed that the couple be allowed to nominate additional experts to the review panel. There have also been disagreements over the provision of medical records in their entirety which have been complicated by difficulties providing printed and complete copies of the woman’s electronic health file.

The hospital will this weekend host an international symposium on adverse pregnancy outcomes in the first trimester, including the diagnosis of foetal malformations during this period.

Ms Haughey said the symposium was “very significant” in the context of the tragedy that had happened and her clients had a “very sincere interest” in the discussions that would take place.

She said she expected to issue two separate writs in the name of the mother and father shortly arising from what happened around the termination last March.