Human Interest

After they aborted their baby for Trisomy 18, they found the test was wrong

photo via Flickr, aborted, Daily Show, abortion

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Britain, which is considered to be a very pro-choice organization, is said to be performing an external review of an incident that took place at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin. A couple was told their preborn child had Edwards syndrome, also known as Trisomy 18. But after they aborted the baby, the second round of test results showed that the baby did not have the condition.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Defence and Leader of Fine Gael, called the situation an “individual tragedy” and that he felt for the couple who had “lost a very wanted child.” He added that he knows similar cases have occurred. In fact, The Irish Times is reporting that the Master of the Rotunda maternity hospital has stated he knows of at least one case like this at his hospital in which a preborn baby was said to have a fetal abnormality but a second test ruled it out.

READ: ‘Slow Code’: Outraged parents say doctors delay care for kids with disabilities

The couple is said to be “utterly, utterly mentally and physically devastated” that they aborted their healthy child and that they want answers as to why they were told that the baby had Trisomy 18. Except the answers are already available.

The mother underwent CVS testing (Chorionic villus sampling) which can be done as early as 10 weeks. CVS testing involves taking cells from the placenta which are then tested twice. The first test takes just five days and is said to be 99 percent accurate with a false positive of just 0.15 percent, according to The Irish Times. The second round of testing takes two weeks and involves allowing the cells to grow out.


After the first round of testing came back with a “positive” result indicating the baby likely had Trisomy 18, the couple decided to abort. And it appears that they may have been pressured to do so before the second test results came back, with the Irish Times reporting, “The couple say they were told by hospital staff there was no need to wait for the second test and that the matter was ‘black and white’… They say they were told there was ‘no hope’ and that the next stage of testing ‘would make no difference’.” But the first test had produced a false positive result due to “mosaicism” which “arises when the genetic make-up of the placenta, which was sampled for the test, differed from that of the fetus.” The Times notes:

The woman in the case, who had researched the issues involved extensively, says she specifically raised the issue of mosaicism, but says her concerns were dismissed.

The couple say they were “actively” told not to wait and that there was no need for amniocentesis – a further test that can be done at a slightly later stage in the pregnancy. Amniocentesis tests cells directly from the foetus.

The couple decided to go ahead and abort before that round of testing came back, later learning that their baby had been healthy all along.

The parents are devastated by what has occurred, but when they thought the baby had a serious health condition, they — under pressure from medical professionals — aborted without even waiting for the tests to be completed. Their child was an innocent human being who deserved to live his or her life and be valued for who he or she was, with or without a health condition.

READ: Couple refused abortion and welcomed misdiagnosed ‘miracle baby’

Even if the second test had confirmed the child had Trisomy 18, an abortion would have still been tragic.

Eilís Mulroy of the Pro-Life Campaign said she hopes the incident will inspire the Minister of Health Simon Harris to listen to families who have been through a similar experience – parents he refused to speak with during Ireland’s abortion referendum.

While many doctors will say that Trisomy 18 is “incompatible with life,” this notion is being disproved by children who are very much living with the condition. Faith, Melody, and Bella are examples of people with Trisomy 18 who are thriving because the doctors around them cared enough to help rather than allow them to die.

Every abortion is a tragedy that could have been avoided, no matter the conditions surrounding their lives.

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