Yet again, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda is in the news for all the wrong reasons. According to Fiach Kelly in today’s Irish Independent, when Melissa Redmond presented for an early pregnancy scan, the doctor who performed the scan told her and her husband that their baby was dead. Arrangements were made for Melissa to undergo a D&C operation to remove the foetus from her womb.
Melissa, however, who already had two children and had also suffered four miscarriages, felt that this was a misdiagnosis. Relying on her own instinct and previous experiences, she made an appointment with her GP, who confirmed that her foetus was still very much alive.
Melissa gave birth to a healthy boy in March of this year. As her husband, Michael, says in the Indo’s report today, there is every possibility that other women could have had viable foetuses removed from their wombs. Unfortunately – in a culture where doctors are still treated as gods – it is not just possible, it is highly likely. As there will be no investigation by the hospital, just how many babies – if any – have been killed by negligent doctors at OLOL in Drogheda will never be known.
A number of things struck me about this case.
Firstly, I was shocked that one doctor – without a second opinion or reference to a single colleague – declared a baby dead and set about organising the removal of said baby from his mother’s womb. Surely, a second opinion should have been sought?
Secondly, it brings glaringly into focus that midwifery skills are sorely lacking in Irish hospitals. A competent midwife with a functioning pinard would have been able to tell Melissa the happy news that her baby was fine. No piece of equipment can take the place of an experienced midwife.
Although it wasn’t mentioned in the newspaper article, I have to wonder if the doctor asked Melissa Redmond such obvious, common-sense questions as ‘Do you still feel pregnant?’ or any question relating to how she felt at the time of the scan and how she felt on previous occasions when she lost a baby. Contrary to what so many members of the medical profession seem to think, women are not thick – not even when they are pregnant – and asking relevant questions can uncover relevant answers.
Once again, I was struck by how badly women and children are treated in Irish society. I was struck by how little we matter – and how disempowered we are (even though I sometimes wonder if women are their own worst enemy and actively collude in their own suppression – but that’s a blog entry for another day).
The bottom line, I think, is that women need to take more responsibility for their own health and well-being – whether that’s taking responsibility by choosing the safer option of a home birth (homebirth is safer than hospital birth for over 80% of women) or by simply trusting her own instinct and asking for a second opinion.