Experts to be involved in Holles Street termination review

Patient's pregnancy terminated on basis of test result suggesting fatal foetal anomaly

Experts in genetics and foetal medicine are expected to be involved in a review of the National Maternity Hospital. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Experts in genetics and foetal medicine are expected to be involved in a review of the National Maternity Hospital. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Experts in genetics and foetal medicine are expected to be involved in a review of the National Maternity Hospital patient whose pregnancy was terminated on the basis of a test result suggesting a fatal foetal anomaly.

The hospital has proposed the case be reviewed independently by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in the UK, and that specialists in these two areas be involved.

The couple whose baby was terminated, who say they were told there was no need to confirm the diagnosis in a second test, have queried the lack of specific genetic involvement at the time of the termination decision.

Since learning from the subsequent result of a second test that their baby was in fact healthy, they have retained the services of their own geneticist to provide advice.

RCOG, which is conducting a substantial review of smear tests of Irish women on foot of the CervicalCheck controversy, has yet to confirm it will undertake the review of the Holles Street case.

The couple’s solicitor, Caoimhe Haughey, has written to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, outlining her concerns about the hospital’s care. Ms Haughey, who believes the case raises wider issues of public patient safety, says she has not yet received a reply from the Minister.

A spokeswoman for the Minister confirmed he had received the letter.

“As stated by the Minister on Friday, his overriding concern is for the couple involved and respecting their privacy,” she said.

“The Minister believes that an appropriate external review is warranted into the matters that arise here and it is important to await its findings. The Minister does not intend to make any further comment on this matter.”

Second test

The woman initially attended the hospital privately. After an initial test indicated their baby had a fatal foetal anomaly, the couple was faced with a decision of whether to proceed with a termination or to await the result of a second test, which had been performed on the same tissue sample. This takes another nine days to arrive after the result of the first test.

The couple say they were told by hospital staff there was no need to wait for the second test and that the matter was “black and white”.

They say they were told there was “no hope” and that the next stage of testing “would make no difference”.

There are no national guidelines in Ireland on prenatal testing but UK guidelines suggest confirmatory tests should be carried out before terminations are undertaken.

At a meeting last month with the obstetrician after the termination had been carried out, the couple says they were not told directly their baby was healthy but gleaned this information afterwards from the test results, which had been provided to them in an envelope.