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Taoiseach confirms independent review of abortion case at National Maternity Hospital

An independent review into the circumstances of an abortion at the National Maternity Hospital is to be carried out, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed to the Dáil.

He said his “heart goes out” to the couple at the heart of this situation, saying this is a deeply personal and private matter.

Speaking today, Mr Varadkar was pressed by Aontu TD Peadar Tobin about the case, which has made front-page news in recent days and called on him to ensure it does not happen again.

Mr Tobin, who is a pro-life TD, left Sinn Féin because of his opposition to his party's stance during the referendum, called for action from Mr Varadkar.

“I wish to convey my deepest sympathies to the parents of the unborn child whose life was ended in the National Maternity Hospital as a result of a reported misdiagnosis and the alleged failure of the hospital to wait for the results of a diagnostic test,” he said.

“It was reported that the medics recommended an abortion unprompted by the child’s parents and that the couple were told that there was no need to wait for a final test,” he added.

Mr Tobin said it was further reported that there was no specific genetic involvement at the time of the abortion decision and that the couple were not told clearly that the child was healthy after the third set of results came in, but, rather, worked this out themselves from information they received in an envelope.

It has emerged that there are no national guidelines for doctors in this area, he said.

“I and other Members raised this issue during the debate on the legislation and warned the Government that such events could occur, but the Government refused to take that into consideration. Will it now create the necessary guidelines to ensure that this does not happen again?”

In response, the Taoiseach said: “My heart goes out to the couple affected by these events. It is important to restate on the floor of the House that this is an individual matter.

"These matters are deeply personal and should be confidential. Although the Deputy may have access to individual medical or other information regarding a particular patient, and whether it was reported in The Irish Times is beside the point.”

“These are personal, private and confidential matters and it is not appropriate for us to discuss them in this Chamber.

I am advised by the Minister for Health that steps are being taken to carry out an independent review of the case.

"Clinical guidelines are normally drawn up by doctors and their professional bodies. I will ask the Minister for Health to follow up on the matter with the Deputy,” the Taoiseach said.

It has been confirmed that the independent review is to be conducted into the case of a termination carried out for reasons of fatal foetal abnormality, where a test later showed no abnormality was present.

The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin commissioned the review into the circumstances of an abortion carried out in the hospital last March.

The review is to be carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK in response to a complaint made by a couple who attended the hospital.

The woman involved was tested for a potential abnormality in chromosome 18, which can give rise to a fatal foetal abnormality known as Edward’s Syndrome, or Trisomy18.

The first sample, which was processed in five days, showed signs of the abnormality. This test is regarded as 99% accurate, with a false positive rate of just 0.15%.

On the basis of this result, the couple opted for a termination, which was carried out in Holles Street two months ago.

However, a second sample, which took two weeks to process and involved the growing out of cells, came back normal.