We can’t depend on ‘gut instinct’ to protect us from the health service

The revelations in the media in the last 48 hours that at least two Galway babies and perhaps many more may have been inadvertently killed in the places where their mothers were to go for care is one of the most shocking to emerge from the litany of error that emanates weekly from the HSE.

Coming just a week after we heard the terrible details of the little boy whose healthy kidney was removed, despite the insistence of his parents that this was so, the latest stories are truly shocking and are bound to lead to another public inquiry into our health services.

Already at time of writing, four women have come forward with their horrific stories of how their gut instinct prevented them from allowing their healthy babies to be killed in the womb, and there will be many many more before the week is out.

We can be thankful for the fact that these people are speaking out and are revealing the unthinkable, but let us spare a thought for the many who will be tormented because they may never know if their healthy babies were destroyed in what may have been unnecessary gynaecological procedures.

The four women who have come forward so far are able to tell their tales because they had the strength of conviction to insist on additional scans, but there are many more who will be tormented this week at the news.

What we do not know is just how many people did not have the bravado or the courage to contradict their consultants, who were not assertive enough to insist that they get a second scan, who were lulled and hushed into silence by the patriarchally-instilled tradition that “doctor knows best.”

There will be many of you reading this and our reports on the matter this week who will need to have your minds put at ease and for that, the HSE has set up a Helpline 1800 252016 to be manned during office hours from Monday to Friday.

Lessons will have to be learned from this saga. It is all too easy to blame it on faulty equipment and faulty personnel, but what is needed is a comprehensive review of obstetric procedures to ensure there is consistency around the country, so that final procedures can not take place until confirmatory scans have been taken by different sets of eyes, preferably on different days and on different equipment. This may be logistically difficult to implement, but it is surely better than depending on the gut instinct of patients to determine whether or not their healthy babies are allowed to live.

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