A couple at the centre of a termination of pregnancy case involving the National Maternity Hospital Holles Street, have told RTÉ News that they feel "abandoned" and led to believe there would be an investigation by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK.

They have called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to intervene to establish an independent inquiry into their case, which would also establish if other such cases occurred and if there were any ongoing issues of concern.

RTÉ News has learned that Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has told Holles Street that it cannot undertake the review.

In a further development, the Department of Health has said in correspondence with the couple that it has been in contact with Holles Street "seeking assurances of the ongoing safety of termination services".

In March this year, a termination of pregnancy was performed for what was believed to be a case of a fatal foetal abnormality.

The couple said they were advised that their baby had Trisomy18, also known as Edwards Syndrome, and that it would not survive.

It followed the results of two of three tests.

When a third, more detailed test came back, after the termination, it found that there was no abnormality present.

The couple told RTÉ News: "We did not take the steps to terminate lightly and we were not scared of the prospect of caring or loving a very sick child. We were told this was a fatal foetal abnormality."

After the case was revealed by RTÉ News on 17 May last, Holles Street said it had asked the RCOG in the UK to do a review.

But the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has told Holles Street that it cannot undertake the review, because it does not have the appropriate expertise amongst its team of assessors.

It also said it would not be able to complete a review in a timely enough manner for the family and hospital.

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External review over termination of pregnancy at Holles Street

RCOG said that the "tragic case" highlighted the fact that with the new and evolving technologies in prenatal diagnosis, there is a need to update the current information available in the area.

It said that it recognised this posed a very difficult situation for the hospital and staff and hoped Holles Street would be able to resolve it, so that an expert review could be completed in a timely manner for the hospital and the family.

The Department of Health has written to lawyers for the couple saying that it has been in direct contact again with the National Maternity Hospital seeking assurances of the ongoing safety of termination services and progress in relation to the independent review.

Holles Street said that the RCOG has said it will approach experts with appropriate specialist knowledge, ascertain their availability to assist and then put the hospital in touch with them. 

Holles Street said it was "very grateful for their assistance in securing someone suitable to lead an independent external review."

The hospital has said it is unaware of any past cases of such a nature at Holles Street.

The hospital said it is conducting a look back over the past 20 years, to see if there were any similar cases where a test showed a fatal foetal abnormality and a later test showed this was not the case in relation to Trisomy18.

"We are in the process of looking back at CVS results over the past 20 years and so far have found no case of discordant results between the QFPCR element and the full karyotype in relation to Trisomy 18," the hospital said.