Parents who experienced fatal foetal abnormalities felt like ‘refugees’

Termination for Medical Reasons outlines experiences in Eighth Amendment submission

Parents who have experienced fatal foetal abnormalities have described how they felt like medical refugees in Ireland. File photograph: Katie Collins/PA Wire

Parents who have experienced fatal foetal abnormalities have described how they felt like medical refugees in Ireland. File photograph: Katie Collins/PA Wire

 

Parents who have experienced fatal foetal abnormalities have described how they felt like “medical refugees” in Ireland.

In its submission to the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment, the Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR) parents’ group outlined members’ devastation at learning of a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality and their subsequent treatment in Ireland.

In the submission, the group says members felt isolated and abandoned by Ireland.

“At a time when we are experiencing the most intense grief of our lives, we find ourselves in another country, having left Ireland in secret, feeling like medical refugees.

“We are abandoned by Ireland – the State and its people – [and] isolated from our families and friends, and separated from the trusted medical team who looked after us up to this point.”

In the submission, the group describes the decision to travel to the UK to seek a termination after having received such a diagnosis.

It says the decision to bring the remains of a baby home is dependent on the mode of travel available.

“If we have our car, we can bring our baby home on the boat. This journey involves us having to go to a supermarket to buy freezer packs, and then we have to stop at regular intervals to open the coffin and change them so that we can keep our baby cold. We also have to leave our baby in a coffin in our car, covered by a blanket or in the boot, while we cross the Irish Sea.

“If we are coming home by ferry but don’t have a car, we have to carry the coffin on public transport – buses or trains – and carry our baby onto the ferry as a foot passenger.

“If we are flying home, we may be able to bring our baby’s remains on the plane. We have to check in advance with the airlines and deal with their special assistance staff. We may need to place the coffin in a holdall or suitcase and check it in as luggage.

“This will mean our baby will be put in the hold by baggage handlers and we will have to collect them from a luggage carousel in Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Galway or Knock. Alternatively, we could take the coffin onto the plane as hand luggage.

“Imagine, all of this is happening within hours of giving birth in the most tragic of circumstances. How do you think this makes people who live here feel? Would any of you be comfortable with your own family members or neighbours having to go through this ordeal?”

Funeral arrangements

TFMR says that when the baby arrives home, parents must then arrange a funeral and tell the news to those close to them.

Without such closure, some families feel it is impossible to grieve normally and can experience more trauma and grief than necessary, it adds.

“So we’re trapped. We’re in the nightmare situation of looking like we’re expecting a baby, while we’re preparing for an enormous loss. Being asked questions about our growing bump can be just too much to bear.

“To avoid this, we isolate ourselves. We hide from the world, not wanting anyone to see our pregnancy or ask us questions, and we suffer the anxiety.”

Claire Cullen-Delsol, spokeswoman for Terminations for Medical Reasons, said she received abuse when she went public with her case.

Ms Cullen Delsol said she had been called a murderer, a witch and was told her baby would have survived if she loved it enough or had enough faith in God.

Most of the abuse is online and conducted by “keyboard warriors” and “fringe voices”, she told the committee.