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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
the eighth

Dublin maternity hospital chief says Irish abortion patient died while flying home after termination

Fergal Malone revealed the woman’s death at yesterday’s hearing of the Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

1 Master of the Rotunda Hospital Fergal Malone

A WOMAN DIED in recent years on a flight home from the UK after undergoing a pregnancy termination, according to the master of one of Ireland’s leading maternity hospitals.

Fergal Malone, master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin’s north city centre, made the revelation over the course of the evening hearing of the Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution at Leinster House yesterday.

During his opening remarks to the Committee, Malone discussed the options available to women pregnant with cases of fatal foetal abnormality, including the option to travel for a termination abroad.

He described one of the main concerns of splitting such care across jurisdictions as being “the potential risks to the physical health of the mother when travelling”:

“Risks associated with travelling for pregnancy termination include infection or haemorrhage which has tragically resulted in the death of one of our patients when travelling to the United Kingdom.”

He said, that in the case of women who choose to terminate their pregnancy, the hospital cannot make direct referrals.

“Patients who choose this course of action are supported to within the limits of Irish legislation,” he said.

Malone continued to say that a journey abroad for a termination in such circumstances is “clearly associated with significant additional challenges for patients, including travelling for healthcare to an unfamiliar city with no family support, significant financial costs, typically €800 to €1500, not including travel costs”, together with the “significant distress associated with leaving their baby’s remains in another country”.

He said that obstetricians are faced with many challenges when dealing with cases of complex foetal abnormalities, not least the reliance on “patients themselves communicating complex medical information”.

In 2016, Malone said, 55 patients of the Rotunda Hospital travelled from Ireland to the UK for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

“We cannot contact staff directly on behalf of a particular patient,” said Malone, adding that there is a “distinct lack of fairness” between the standard of care afforded to a mother carrying a baby with a fatal foetal abnormality who chooses to stay in Ireland as compared with a woman who chooses to travel and is “forced to endure the split of her care between two jurisdictions”.

Read: Dr Rhona Mahony tells Eighth Committee: ‘We must address the criminalisation of medical care’

Read: Over half of voters would back a limited liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion law

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