Human Interest

Doctors said baby with Down syndrome would die, told mom to abort before confirmed diagnosis


In a Daily Mail article, UK resident Hetty Blakey describes being misled by doctors about her child’s condition and pressured to abort. Blakey went to Lincoln County Hospital and had a nuchal translucency screening.

Told to abort without a proper diagnosis

Web MD describes this test:

The screening involves two steps. A blood test checks for levels of two substances — pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) and human chorionic gonadotropin. A special ultrasound, called a nuchal translucency screening, measures the back of the baby’s neck…

The combined result of the blood tests and the ultrasound gives you a sense of your baby’s risk. However, it’s not a diagnosis. Most women who have an abnormal first-trimester screening go on to have healthy babies.

The test found that the measurement was high, indicating a possible chromosomal abnormality.

The hospital told Blakey and her husband nothing about the baby’s condition, except to say that the child wouldn’t survive and abortion was needed. At this point, the diagnosis hadn’t been confirmed, and there was no indication their child had a fatal condition – Down syndrome isn’t considered a terminal condition.

Blakey says:

From the scan, we were given a leaflet on abortion and told that it didn’t look good and that with the amount of nuchal translucency fluid, there was a chance that the baby had something very severe.

They handed me a scan picture and lulled me into this really depressed place of, “This baby’s not going to live”. That was before any diagnosis was made. It was just purely off of a scan.

READ: I was pressured to abort after a decimal point error led to a Down syndrome misdiagnosis

Other doctors said her baby was “perfectly healthy”

Instead of aborting, Blakey went to another hospital where her daughter was given a Down syndrome diagnosis. The diagnosis was confirmed by a chorionic villus sampling test. Doctors also told her the baby was “perfectly healthy” and there was no medical need to abort.

Blakey’s daughter Poppy was born, and Blakey now says that if she’d followed the first doctors’ advice, and not sought a second opinion, she would have aborted her daughter. In her words, “They made it feel like it was the most fair thing to do.”

She says, “It was not a case of, ‘She might have something wrong with her, but it could be OK’, there was no happiness to it. It was just very much a case of, prepare yourself… Poppy was nearly not here as a result of their advice.”

Blakey describes feeling “really hurt and disregarded” and “absolutely hysterical.” She even became suicidal.

Lincoln County Hospital never followed up to check on her and her baby.

Denial of care after birth

But the discrimination didn’t end at Poppy’s birth. She was born with a heart defect and was in danger of heart failure, and spent some time in the NICU. She needed surgery. But when her parents asked to see a heart specialist, they were told the cardiologist wouldn’t see Poppy. Blakey believes her daughter was refused care because she has Down syndrome. This occurred at Grimsby Hospital, a different hospital than the one where doctors pushed Blakey to abort.

Fortunately, Poppy was eventually able to get the surgery she needed.

Poppy also had duodenal atresia, a condition in which the stomach is not attached to the bowel. She underwent surgery for this but was again the victim of poor medical care when she was given a vaccine that shouldn’t be given to babies who have had bowel surgery. This vaccine caused more medical complications.

Blakey says, “For a mum who’s just got her baby out of the intensive care unit, it was incredibly frightening. I feel a huge amount of neglect and I feel harassed and bullied by Grimsby hospital.”

Poppy and her family endured discrimination and poor medical care at two different hospitals. All too often, people with Down syndrome are devalued by medical professionals and receive substandard treatment.

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