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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# growing trend
"Adverse publicity" warning over fatal foetal abnormality terminations
The Master of the Rotunda says that a growing number of women who travel for terminations in such cases are returning home halfway through their procedures.

A GROWING NUMBER of women who travel to the UK for terminations after receiving a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality are returning home halfway through their procedure to deliver stillborn babies in Irish hospitals.

The trend is revealed in a letter from the Master of the Rotunda, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith to the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, the contents of which were revealed by RTÉ’s Prime Time programme last night.

Coulter-Smith’s letter, alerting Tony Holohan to the practice, also contained a warning of the “potential for adverse publicity” should something go wrong in one of the cases.

It also sets out the two-step procedure for terminations required by law in Britain, once a pregnancy has passed 22 weeks.

The first part involves the administration of an injection to stop the heart of the foetus. The woman is then given medication to induce the birth, and asked to return to the hospital at a scheduled time for the delivery.

But Coulter-Smith sets out in the letter that some women are returning to Ireland after receiving the drugs, to give birth.


The numbers are believed to be small, but he warns that it’s “something that has started to happen with increasing frequency”. He also requests a meeting with Holohan to discuss the issue.

Commenting to the programme on the issue, a spokesperson for Chief Medical Officer said he was “very concerned about the patient safety implications of the situation described in the correspondence”.

“A meeting took place between the Master of the Rotunda and officials from the Department of Health to discuss the matters raised.

“The Chief Medical Officer has taken initial soundings which appear to indicate that this practice has not been identified in every maternity service in Ireland.

“However, it is too early to say that it is confined to the Rotunda. The Chief Medical Officer intends to communicate with the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the National Clinical Programme for Obstetrics to establish the further extent if any of the practice.

“The Department has great sympathy for the many couples who receive a diagnosis of foetal fatal abnormality.

“State-funded support services are available which provide appropriate counselling to women in these difficult situations. More information is available at”

Read: It looks like Labour’s next manifesto will commit to widening Ireland’s abortion laws>

Read: Concerns expressed over reports UK hospitals are to cap Irish abortions>