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shock case Couple who were wrongly advised to terminate pregnancy have not received apology

'There has been no apology from anybody associated with it,' Ms Price said.


Rebecca Price and Patrick Kiely leaving the Four Courts earlier this week. Photo: Collins Courts.

Rebecca Price and Patrick Kiely leaving the Four Courts earlier this week. Photo: Collins Courts.

Rebecca Price and Patrick Kiely leaving the Four Courts earlier this week. Photo: Collins Courts.

A couple who terminated their pregnancy due to a false diagnosis of a fetal fatal abnormality in their unborn son, Christopher, have received no apology from the hospital or clinic involved.

Rebecca Price and Pat Kiely settled their legal action earlier this week after the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) and Merrion Fetal Health Clinic admitted liability in the case of Christopher’s misdiagnosis of the presence of trisomy 18, an indicator of Edwards Syndrome.

The diagnosis led the couple to believe their son would not make it to birth, or if he did, would die very soon after. They were advised the best course of action would be to seek a termination.

Following the termination, the results of the test for the diagnosis of Edwards Syndrome, which were processed in a lab in Glasgow, found no evidence of the trisomy 18 indicator of Edwards Syndrome. Christopher was, in fact, perfectly healthy.

Speaking in an interview with the Irish Examiner, the couple said no apology for the misdiagnosis had yet been provided by the hospital or the clinic..

“There has been no apology from anybody associated with it. The admission of liability is a start but, as far as we're concerned, this isn’t over until future pregnancies are protected and people are safe from this error.

“The child is not invisible and without rights in the eyes of the law. His or her care and management should meet certain safeguards,” Ms Price said.

Mr Kiely said the couple are “different people than we were before this,” adding: “part of that is down to the tragedy, but the other thing is closure.

“There is still the ongoing risk as far as we are concerned. The risk to other couples has not been addressed,” he said.

The couple have vowed to continue campaigning until such instances of misdiagnosis are erased and unborn babies and families are protected from the error that caused them such pain.

The misdiagnosis occurred after the couple were offered a non-invasive Harmony test for three indicators for potentially fatal conditions. The test is common among pregnant women, particularly older expecting mothers.

“I was 35, an older mother, and there would be no harm in getting any information we could. If there was something then we could be in a position to prepare for it. So we rang back and said, yes, we’d do it,” Ms Price said.

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A week later, a call from a consultant at the NMH informed the couple that trisomy 18 was detected and if Christopher survived birth, he would have a very short life.

The couple were devastated and the following Monday went to the NMH for a chorionic villus test, which would provide confirmation of Edwards Syndrome being present.

Upon arrival for this test, Ms Price underwent an ultrasound scan that showed everything was normal with her unborn son.

“I asked didn’t that raise a question about the Harmony test but I was told no, because the Harmony was a DNA test and it had to be the more accurate one,” she said.

Four days later, the couple received news that the test confirmed that there was a fatal fetal abnormality and were asked to come in for another consultation on what to do next.

“I had been in touch with Soft, the charity for parents of children with Edwards syndrome and I had got a fair bit of information on it.

“We wanted to see if there was any way that there could be a chance that he might survive and live for a while at least

“But in the end we were told that the results were definitive, that this was full-blown trisomy 18 and the final result would only show if there was something else wrong as well.

"I asked were we being told there was no hope and she [the consultant] said yes,” said Ms Price.

The couple proceeded with a termination and sprinkled Christopher’s ashes near Mount Brandon in Kerry, where they have a holiday home. Ms Price retained the umbilical cord.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of their ordeal as the lab processing the results in University Hospital Glasgow confirmed to the NMH there was no sign of trisomy 18, the indicator of Edwards Syndrome.

The couple were called into the NMH and told the final result had actually shown there were some normal cells.

The termination was based on erroneous test results.

“We were told that, theoretically, there was a tiny chance that these cells may represent he was a normal child. I asked had this kind of thing been seen before and was told it had.

"We were left confused. I felt dumb because I couldn’t figure it out. We were both at a loss and then the meeting segued into whether we should be tested for trisomy 18,” Mr Kiley said.

The couple were given the result from the lab in Scotland and, after reading the first line, Ms Price knew the enormity of the error that had been made.

Mr Kiely, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon from Cork, had to rush off to work, but phoned Ms Price, who had read the report on her own. He phoned his partner at first opportunity, to see how she was doing.

The report stated: “Chromosome analysis of cells cultured from chorionic villus biopsy indicates an apparently normal male chromosome complement with no evidence of mosaicism involving chromosome 18, in any of the 30 cells examined.”

“She was very distressed and said get home as soon as you can,” Mr Kiely said.

“I legged it home and I found her upstairs in the dark and she was crying and she handed me the report and it confirmed that Christopher was probably not fatally affected by anything.”

The couple opted to have a lab in Germany test the umbilical cord for trisomy 18, which further provided confirmation that Christopher was indeed healthy.

The couple launched a legal action last year after they felt they had not received any satisfactory action from either the hospital or the clinic involved.

Due to the fact the NMH is a privately-owned, non-profit hospital, the HSE or Minister for Health could not order an independent inquiry. Any inquiry would have to be conducted by the NMH itself.

“What about the couples who don’t have access to the kind of people I was able to call up?” asked Mr Kiely.

“What about those who are not in a position to take on board all the different aspects in terms of the science or medicine? We were fortunate in that regard, but has it happened to others who haven’t been able to deal with the enormity of it or pursue it to the extent that we have?

“Nobody should be put through this,” he said.

Ms Price said if Christopher’s life and legacy “is that other failures and future children can be better protected, that would be something real”.

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