As the House will be aware, a termination took place at the National Maternity Hospital in March of this year on the grounds that a condition incompatible with life was present. It has subsequently emerged that the circumstances surrounding the decision to terminate may require review.
I would firstly like to stress the need to respect the privacy of the family at the centre of this case. My overriding concern as Minister for Health is for the couple involved and ensuring their questions are appropriately answered.
Section 11 of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 sets out the law on access to termination of pregnancy in cases where there is a condition present affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus before or within 28 days of birth.
Section 9 of the Health Act 2007 sets out that the Minister for Health may require the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to undertake an investigation into HSE services if they have reasonable grounds to believe that there is a risk to the health or welfare of a person receiving those services, and the risk is the result of any act, failure to act or negligence on the part of the HSE or a service provider.
There is full agreement between the Department, the National Maternity Hospital and the family that an independent and external review into this case is required. I have been advised that the National Maternity Hospital is making arrangements to organise such a review of this case. I have also recently met with the family to hear directly of their concerns.
It is of vital importance that all parties are confident in both the independence of the review panel and its capacity to provide the requisite expertise to fulfil its remit, in line with the HIQA/Mental Health Commission's National Standards for the Conduct of Reviews of Patient Safety Incidents and the HSE Incident Management Framework. It is imperative that the review is now progressed so as to provide answers to the family and identify any learnings that may be applicable for the maternity services as a whole. I will also examine the findings of the review closely in order to consider any further actions that may be necessary.