The couple whose baby was aborted in the National Maternity Hospital have called for change after winning their High Court action against the hospital, five consultants and the laboratory who mistakenly said their unborn son had Trisomy 18.
This is unbearably sad 💔@DonnellyStephen I know you’re flat out but please watch this and try to find the time to meet with this couple.
Rebecca Price and Patrick Kiely’s pregnancy was terminated after they were wrongly advised their baby had a fatal foetal abnormality. pic.twitter.com/icdT3I9UM2
— Frank Greaney (@FrankGreaney) June 23, 2021
They said that they wanted to meet with Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly, as soon as possible to work with him to ensure an event that was never meant to happen – but which did happen – would never happen again.
Rebecca Price and Patrick Kiely said they were calling for an “immediate cessation” of the practice of confirming the diagnosis of a suspected condition without the gold standard test – a full Karotype analysis – being carried out.
The couple said that they had made it “absolutely clear” in early March 2019 to Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe that they only considered her advice to end their pregnancy because they were told their baby had no chance of survival.
Their baby, who they named Christopher, had been diagnosed with Trisomy 18, which the couple were told was a ‘fatal, foetal abnormality’ although that is not a medical term. Advocates for better care point out that babies with Trisomy 18 often live after birth, sometimes for days, but in some cases for years.
Ms Price and Mr Kiely, who live in Phibsborough in Dublin, brought separate legal actions against the NMH and others because of what they described as the “tragic and unnecessary” abortion of their son in March 2019.
Yesterday afternoon, the High Court was told that all the defendants had conceded full liability. The defendants were: The National Maternity Hospital: Consultant Obstetricians, Dr Peter McParland, Dr Fionnuala McAuliffe, Dr Rhona Mahony, Dr Shane Higgins and Dr Stephen Carroll who operate the Merrion Fetal Health Clinic under a business partnership. The clinic facilitated testing which doctors wrongly believed confirmed Trisomy 18 was present in baby Christopher’s case. A laboratory, the Greater Glasgow Health Board, where an initial test result incorrectly showed Trisomy 18 was indicated.
The couple found out they were expecting their first child on December 24th, 2018. Some eight weeks later, when Ms Price was believed to be 12 weeks’ pregnant, they attended a private ultrasound scan at the Merrion Fetal Health Clinic on 21 February, 2019.
Although the ultrasound showed no abnormalities with the baby, Ms Price was advised by the clinic to undergo another form of testing called the Harmony test. The test, which costs €430, analyses the mother’s blood to assess the possibility of chromosomal disorders such as Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21) and Edward’s Syndrome (Trisomy 18).
Seven days later, Ms Price was told the Harmony test had tested positive for Trisomy 18. Although many babies with the condition do live after birth, Trisomy 18 is held to be a ground for abortion under the 2018 legislation introduced by Simon Harris.
Samples were then sent to the Greater Glasgow Health Board where Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) was carried out on a sample of cells from the placenta. However, before the gold standard test – a Karotype analysis – was carried out, the couple were wrongly advised again that the baby had Trisomy 18.
The couple have previously said they were in shock at the news, that they never raised the issue of abortion, and they were told that their baby was not viable.
When they said they would care for a sick baby they were told their baby had a “fatal foetal abnormality” and claimed they were told not to wait for the results of the more advanced test. Ms Price said she followed the advice of her consultant, Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe, and the baby boy was aborted at the National Maternity Hospital on 14 March, 2019.
It is also claimed that a second medical practitioner who signed off on the abortion never examined or met the mother in advance of the abortion. Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín, has said that if that was the case, the procedure was contrary to the law brought in by the Government and was illegal.
After the abortion, the result of a full Karotype analysis, which examined the baby’s own chromosomes, became available which revealed the child had a normal male Karotype and did not have Trisomy 18. It is believed that the result of the earlier tests detected abnormal cells which were, in fact, only confined to the placenta.
Ms Price and Mr Kiely claimed in their legal actions that they were advised “in no uncertain terms” that there was no point in waiting for the results of the more comprehensive chromosomal analysis.
The couple have previously said that they felt completely abandoned by the State because of what they believed was foot-dragging by the hospital and other parties in regard to a full inquiry into the case. Peadar Tóibín said that the response to the case by the previous Minister for Health, Simon Harris, was “shambolic” and that politicians wanted the case swept under the carpet.
Advocacy group, Every Life Counts, who represent families where a baby is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition in the womb, said they welcomed the admission of liability as an important step towards justice for the family. Spokeswoman, Vicky Wall, said that the case highlighted a dangerous trend to push parents towards abortion when a poor prognosis was made.
“We are increasingly hearing that abortion is presented as the best – and sometimes the only – solution when baby has been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. We asked for safeguards during the referendum on the 8th so that cases like this would not happen but we were either ignored or shouted down. Now we know of this devastating case just three months after the law was changed. How many more need to happen? ” she said.