Bereavement Guidelines to Apply in Abortion Cases


Health Minister Simon Harris and the HSE’s director-general Tony O’Brien have launched updated national standards for bereavement care following pregnancy loss and perinatal death. The minister made clear the standards are to be applied also in the cases of women who have had abortions in Britain. Mr Harris said he hoped the new regime would give grieving families “the care and compassion they need”.


The 84-page report, entitled ‘Standards for bereavement care following pregnancy loss and perinatal death’, advises that any information given to mothers and families needs to be reliable, accurate and explained in a sensitive and supportive manner. It outlines four pillars of bereavement care – the hospital, baby, parents and staff – and states that bereavement and end-of-life care should be organised around the needs of babies and their families. It also requires all maternity hospitals and units to be staffed with bereavement specialists. These teams should include a dedicated clinical midwife specialising in bereavement care, along with obstetricians, paediatricians, neonatologists, chaplains, social workers and palliative-care staff. The document says that bereavement care should be offered in accordance with the religious, secular, ethnic, social and cultural values of the parents.


The guidelines are updated to acknowledge a duty of care towards those who have travelled abroad for an abortion, including in cases where the baby was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Other recommendations include that a certain prescribed language be used when breaking the news of a death or “life-limiting condition” to parents.


Figures detailed in the report show that there were some 500 perinatal deaths in 2013, including 301 stillbirths. There are also around 14,000 miscarriages a year in Ireland.

Irish Independent. August 10.

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