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Parents of baby aborted after misdiagnosis get court date to sue hospital

The High Court has fixed a date for an action being brought by the parents of an unborn child who was aborted after doctors mistakenly insisted the baby had a condition which they described as a “fatal abnormality”. 

The 15-week old baby was aborted in the National Maternity Hospital just months after abortion was legalised in Ireland in December 2018. Abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy where the baby has been diagnosed with a severe disability.

The parents said they told doctors they “did not fear caring for a very sick child” but were told by the hospital that their baby had a “fatal abnormality”.

“We did not take the steps to terminate lightly and we were not scared of the prospect of caring or loving a very sick child. We were told this was a ‘fatal foetal abnormality’,” they previously told RTE News.

The devastated family said that they never raised the issue of abortion, that doctors insisted there was “no hope” for their baby, and they were told not to wait for the results of a diagnostic test as it would make ‘no difference’.

When the test came back it showed that the baby was perfectly healthy. By then, however, their child had already been aborted.

The couple are suing and seeking damages from various parties including the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street and a private clinic Merrion Fetal Health, which is run by five consultant obstetrician gynaecologists.

Last November, the couple wrote to Taoiseach Micheál Martin criticising the hospital’s handling of the matter, and claiming the review process had become “adversarial”.

“Indeed, it does appear the only way we will get real answers is through the courts,” they wrote.

They said they were also being “kept in the dark” regarding critical, ongoing communications between the Department of Health and the hospital.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín has previously accused the government of ignoring the issue and attempting to “sweep the case under carpet” – adding that the family were not getting the assistance they needed from then Health Minister, Simon Harris, who was responsible for the abortion legislation.

“This is a desperately tragic case. The family was falsely told that the child had a fatal foetal abnormality. The couple claim that their child would be with them today, were it not for the actions of the hospital,” he said.

Toibín also said that the family claim the abortion did not comply with all the steps set down in the legislation, which says that two practitioners were required to have “examined the pregnant woman” and be of “the reasonable opinion formed in good faith that there is present a condition affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before, or within 28 days of, birth”.

Tóibín told the Dáil that, according to the family, the second medical practitioner never even met the mother, much less examined her.

Support group Every Life Counts, which assists families where baby has had a poor diagnosis, said that they had warned that parents might feel pushed into abortion without safeguards if the 8th was repealed, but the Health Minister refused to meet them to discuss those concerns.

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