Simon Harris: All parents who lose a baby to get support

Dr Keelin O'Donoghue, consultant obstetrician at Cork University Maternity Hospital.

Every parent who loses a baby will get the support they need, said the Minister for Health Simon Harris.

“To learn that your unborn child or newborn baby is unwell and is not going to grow to achieve all that you wish for, or is not going to survive, must be one of the most harrowing situations imaginable for any parent.

“The family’s aspirations and dreams for the child are taken away and replaced with grief and distress, at the very time when the family should be facing a future with joy, hope and happiness.

“Some families have to face the knowledge their child will not survive and may make the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy,” Mr Harris said.

“Most importantly, all of these families need to know that, regardless of the nature of the loss, appropriate support will be available, if and when required,” he added.

Mr Harris was speaking yesterday, at the launch of the National Standards for Bereavement Care Following Pregnancy Loss and Perinatal Death.

“During our development process, Savita and many of the people who’ve experienced pregnancy loss, were at the core of the development of the standards,” said Ciarán Browne, from the HSE, who chaired the development group.

Mr Harris also acknowledged that Ireland has been “behind the curve” in relation to the care of parents grieving a child through pregnancy loss or perinatal death.

“Regrettably Ireland has been behind the curve in bereavement care, and much of the need for bereavement support has been unmet,” he said.

Mr Harris was then asked if he believed Irish women did not receive adequate care in the past.

“I said in the Dáil that I believe women in this country historically, have not received the level of support and care from our health service and indeed from other parts of society that they should have,” he said.

There are four standards being introduced, which relate to bereavement care, the hospital, the baby and parents and the staff.

Keelin O’Donoghue, a consultant obstetrician in Cork University Maternity Hospital and a senior lecturer in University College Cork has been appointed to oversee the standards implementation.

“In Ireland, because of our circumstances, whereby many parents have not chosen termination of pregnancy or have not had the choice to do so in Ireland, we have developed skilled experience in looking after parents during pregnancy and afterwards in these situations,” said Ms O’Donoghue.

“I would like to think we have equal regard for those parents who choose to continue their pregnancy and that we regard the short lives and the precious experiences that they have, as well as those families diagnosed with a major foetal anomaly who choose not to continue in their pregnancy and obviously support them recognising the extra trauma that they face in currently having to travel outside the country,” she added.

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