Belfast Telegraph

Hospitals cannot compound grief

Editor's Viewpoint

For any mother-to-be to lose a baby during pregnancy is a devastating blow, striking at the very core of her maternal instincts. For the woman whose story we report in today's newspaper, it was an even more cruel blow as she was expecting her first child when she was told that it would not survive and could imperil her own life.

She and her husband then had to make the agonising decision to have an abortion.

But what followed only compounded their grief. It is shocking that the woman was not offered counselling to help her come to terms with her loss. And it was even more disturbing that she would have to wait up to 21 weeks for the postmortem results.

It is vital in cases of foetal abnormality that the possible causes – including genetic factors – are discovered as soon as possible in case of a further pregnancy. The final blow for the couple was to learn that their baby's ashes were left at the crematorium for some time due to a mix-up between the health trust and the crematorium.

This woman's experience raises other issues. How many other mums-to-be who have lost a child in similar circumstances or through a miscarriage have been left to grieve alone?

Why does one hospital, the Ulster, have a dedicated bereavement midwife and the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital does not? Surely that should be part of a holistic service offered to mothers-to-be in what are Northern Ireland's busiest maternity units?

At least the health trust has apologised to the woman whose story we tell, but this is becoming an all-too-familiar trait – the level of care in many hospitals leaves something to be desired in some cases.

Apologies are fine, but they should be followed by action to ensure that the events are not repeated and that gaps in service provision are filled or the level of service is improved when it has been shown to be wanting.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph