The Buck Stops Here

June 10, 2010

For anyone who has ever been diagnosed with a missed miscarriage, I expect that this week’s news about miscarriage diagnosis may well have proved somewhat unsettling. This latest health scandal only emerged when a woman who was wrongly diagnosed with a miscarriage, decided to go public with her story to encourage women in similar situations to get a second opinion if they have any doubts.  About a dozen women have subsequently come forward with stories of having been wrongly told by maternity hospitals that they were carrying dead babies, only to give birth later to healthy infants. More than 150 people have contacted emergency helpline numbers since yesterday. Health Minister Mary Harney is continuing to refuse to comment on the issue, claiming that it is a matter for the HSE.

*”The HSE has been forced to instigate an investigation into all suspected miscarriage misdiagnosis cases over the last five years in an attempt to uncover the true scale of the growing terminated pregnancies scandal. The review will focus specifically on women who were recommended drug or surgical treatment (D&C) to remove what was in reality a perfectly healthy foetus. The nationwide examination will focus initially on complaints by the expectant mother at the time of the incident. It will also examine a growing list of new cases which have come to light this week, and further disputed cases which may or may not involve miscarriage misdiagnoses. The review will be confined to the past five years. ”

Many moons ago, I was diagnosed with a missed miscarriage at the end of the first trimester of my 2nd pregnancy, having contacted the maternity hospital for advice as I’d noticed ‘spotting.’ An ultrasound scan was carried out by my obstetrician at the hospital and I was told that the pregnancy had failed. Apparently, there was no heartbeat visible, just an empty embryonic sac with a diagnosis of a ‘missed miscarriage’ and a referral for a D&C the following day. At the time, a missed miscarriage was medically referred to as a ‘missed abortion’ and the subsequent D&C was referred to as an ‘evacuation of the retained products of conception (ERPC). Having arrived at the hospital as an expectant mother, I left in tears with those horrific terms reverberating around in my head. When I returned to the hospital the next day, no further scan was done to confirm the diagnosis prior to the D&C being carried out under general anaesthetic. Following this week’s awful revelations, I’m amazed that I never thought to question the diagnosis. I suppose times were different then.

Mary Harney should know better than to pass the buck to the HSE. After all, she is the Minister for Health and Children.

* Information Source: Irish Examiner

They Shall Not Grow Old

November 11, 2008

When I answered a newspaper advert twenty years ago, I could never have imagined how different things would be today. At the time, I was desperately searching for answers and this ad offered my first real glimmer of hope. I was no longer alone, somebody else was in the same boat as myself. Shortly afterwards, the Miscarriage Association of Ireland was born.

When I had my first miscarriage in 1986 (having had a normal first pregnancy ), there was no support network in place despite the fact that every year in Ireland, approximately 14,000 women suffer a miscarriage. I felt very alone and wanted to talk to someone else who’d been through a similar experience. I couldn’t find information anywhere (miscarriage was a taboo subject in those days) so in desperation, I turned to the UK and discovered there was a Miscarriage Association which could provide the support I needed. Unfortunately, the following year I suffered a second miscarriage which left me wondering if I would ever again carry a baby to full term. This time I was determined to do something to correct the lack of support available following miscarriage and that’s when I saw the newspaper ad looking for people willing to form a support group. I contacted the person behind the ad and together we co-founded the Miscarriage Association of Ireland. I’ve long since moved on from the work of the Association but it has continued to go from strength to strength as a fully registered charity.

I was delighted to be invited to a Service of Remembrance last Sunday in St. Teresa’s  Church, Donore Avenue, Dublin 8. Prior to the service, a new memorial stone was unveiled in the grounds of the church to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Association. This stone is dedicated to all babies lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, to honour their memory.


(photo taken on camera phone)

The large church was packed to capacity for the interdenominational service. Every family was invited to light a candle during the service in remembrance of their lost babies. It was incredibly moving to look at all those candles flickering at the altar knowing that each one of them represented a life lost, and to reflect upon what might have been. This beautiful service brought me back to all those years ago when I had yearned to share my grief with others who had suffered a similar loss.


These days there is a full range of support services available through the Miscarriage Association. It has it’s own website and offers a telephone support line to bereaved parents. It holds a monthly meeting where people can meet in a supportive environment and if they wish, they can share their experiences with others who have been through similar experiences. The Association also has a series of specially commissioned Books of Remembrance in which to commemorate babies lost during pregnancy.

Thankfully, the majority of women who suffer pregnancy loss, go on to have successful pregnancies and healthy babies. My next pregnancy did result in another miscarriage but amazingly, it was a twin pregnancy and seven months later, I finally got to bring home a bouncing bundle of joy.

This being Remembrance Day and the 90th anniversary of the ending of the First World War, the words of Laurence Binyon’s poem are particularly close to my heart…

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


September 10, 2007

I wrote recently on the subject of miscarriage and commented on how things have changed for the better over the years. Well, it appears that hospital practice has yet to change in some hospitals. My heart goes out to the parents in this instance in an NHS hospital in the UK. The treatment they received recently following the loss of their baby through miscarriage, is unacceptable. It will have done nothing to help the grief process. When I miscarried my baby son twenty years ago, my husband and I were asked if we would like to see him. He was brought to us lying in a blue injection tray with his tiny little body covered by paper towelling. I remember thinking that this was an undignified way in which to present us with our baby but as I was so overwhelmed with grief at the time, I never commented on it. However, I’ve never forgotten the distressing image of that blue plastic tray and sadly, my experience is in no way unique.

The Miscarriage Association of Ireland some years ago set about addressing this problem in our maternity hospitals. They designed a little fleece wrap to enable babies that have been lost through late miscarriage, to be handed to their parents with the dignity and respect they deserve. Thankfully today, these wraps are now part of hospital supplies in each maternity unit in Ireland. The NHS, it appears, still has a lot to learn.