Fatal foetal abnormalities


Sir, – I am deeply concerned by Breda O’Brien’s article “When ‘fatal’ foetal abnormalities are not so fatal”, Opinion & Analysis, September 23rd).

Breda O’Brien cites studies by US pro-life lobbyist Dr Marty McCaffrey but fails to acknowledge that many of the conditions referred to have a spectrum of severity. It is the combination of symptoms together with the diagnostic test results that determine whether any individual baby’s condition is determined to be fatal.

As a parent who lost my daughter to a rare chromosomal condition called triploidy, I know how heart-breaking it is to hear that your baby will not survive. After my husband and I received our diagnosis, we sought second opinions from consultants and professors of foetal medicine in Ireland, the UK and Australia. I found cases online where babies with triploidy had survived for days, weeks and in some cases years. I kept referencing these specific cases of survival, asking why they were saying my baby would not live if these babies could? What I failed to realise is that triploidy is a spectrum condition. The rare cases of survival that I had found were the mosaic forms. My daughter had complete triploidy. The severity of the variant meant she would never be born alive and therefore was correctly diagnosed as having a fatal foetal anomaly.

The argument that prenatal testing somehow adversely affects outcomes for babies with these conditions is not only untruthful, it is also harmful. It is harmful because it gives false hope to parents who receive a fatal foetal diagnosis. It is also harmful because it undermines the interventions and decisions that some parents make under medical guidance after receiving fatal foetal diagnoses. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 9.