Mum of Downs baby ‘told to ter­mi­nate’

Wairarapa News - - FRONT PAGE - RUBY NYIKA

The mother of an un­born child with Down Syn­drome says she was ad­vised by med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als to ter­mi­nate the preg­nancy.

An­te­na­tal screen­ing meant Master­ton mother of two Danielle Bolt knew her un­born daugh­ter Noa would have Down Syn­drome, but she did not hes­i­tate in giv­ing birth to her now 21-month-old.

Bolt was an­gry with the ad­vice she was given and said doc­tors and nurses should change their ap­proach.

‘‘I was told to ter­mi­nate by the spe­cial­ist,’’ Bolt said. ‘‘They lit­er­ally said to me Noa will be­come a bur­den on so­ci­ety and she’s not worth it.’’

‘‘It’s so cruel be­cause they don’t know her po­ten­tial.’’

Bolt, who went for Cho­ri­onic Vil­lus Sam­pling (CVS) at Welling­ton Hos­pi­tal, said she was called by staff, who apol­o­gised and told her that her daugh­ter would have Down Syn­drome.

Bolt was up­set they felt the need to apol­o­gise about an oth­er­wise healthy baby girl.

‘‘There’s noth­ing wrong with her ... That ap­proach there just dev­as­tated me,’’ she said.

Bolt sup­ported screen­ing to pre­pare moth­ers for any health is­sues their new­born may have but, for her, ter­mi­na­tion was never an op­tion.

Bolt said Noa can be cheeky and bossy but also ‘‘the best big sis­ter’’ to her five-month-old sis­ter Maisy.

‘‘I just hope that she’s ac­cepted, more than any­thing … a whole change in at­ti­tude is what I’m look­ing for.’’

Chris Lowry, Cap­i­tal & Coast DHB gen­eral man­ager hos­pi­tal and health­care ser­vices, said they were look­ing into con­cerns raised by Bolt through their com­plaints process.

‘‘We sin­cerely apol­o­gise to Danielle that com­ments made by our staff were in­sen­si­tive,’’ she said.

Lowry said when a pa­tient re­ceived a pos­i­tive screen­ing test for Down Syn­drome, or other con­di­tions, their Ma­ter­nal Fe­tal Medicine ser­vice were there to sup­port the fam­ily through any de­ci­sion they make.

‘‘Ter­mi­na­tion is one of sev­eral op­tions dis­cussed, as is con­tinu- ing the preg­nancy. All op­tions avail­able are dis­cussed with­out judge­ment or en­cour­age­ment.

‘‘If a woman wishes to stop her preg­nancy then in­for­ma­tion, coun­selling and sup­port are pro­vided.’’

‘‘If a woman chooses to con­tinue the preg­nancy, she and her fam­ily are sup­ported.’’

Palmer­ston North woman Ruth Eder also re­ceived an­te­na­tal re­sults show­ing that her daugh­ter might have Down Syn­drome and, like Bolt, was en­cour­aged by doc­tors to ter­mi­nate the preg­nancy.

Eder de­scribes her now oneyear-old daugh­ter Alexan­dria as a ‘‘pure heart-breaker’’.

‘‘She’s full of smiles and gig­gles and love,’’ Eder said.

Eder, who is preg­nant with her sec­ond child, worked in cater­ing at the Palmer­ston North hos­pi­tal while she was preg­nant with Alexan­dria and said there was a cul­ture of ‘‘fear mon­ger­ing’’

‘‘I had friends who were or­der­lies and things telling me that ‘oh many of th­ese cases, they don’t come out nice … the doc­tors are rec­om­mend­ing a ter­mi­na­tion, you should be go­ing for it’,’’ Eder said.

She said she and her hus­band were told most cou­ples had am­nio­cen­te­sis af­ter their first screen­ing if it in­di­cated a like­li­hood of Down Syn­drome, so they could de­cide whether to ter­mi­nate.

‘‘If it wasn’t for our faith I hon­estly think we might have lis­tened to the doc­tors and had an abor­tion,’’ she said.

‘‘I ac­tu­ally go around now and talk to peo­ple and say, this is the child they told me I should have been ter­mi­nat­ing.’’

A spokesman for Palmer­ston North Hos­pi­tal said they would not com­ment on Eder’s claims.

Min­istry of Health na­tional screen­ing unit clin­i­cal di­rec­tor Dr Jane O’Hal­la­han said the screen­ing pro­cesss was op­tional, of­fered to pro­vide women with more in­for­ma­tion about their preg­nancy.

O’Hal­la­han said it in­cluded the op­tion of giv­ing birth in a set­ting that had ac­cess to spe­cial­ist sur­gi­cal or med­i­cal ser­vices or the pos­si­bil­ity of con­sid­er­ing ter­mi­na­tion.

‘‘Ter­mi­na­tion of preg­nancy would not be of­fered fol­low­ing a screen­ing re­sult,’’ she said.

‘‘This screen­ing of­fers women in­for­ma­tion that may help them pre­pare for the birth of their child, in­clud­ing the op­tion of giv­ing birth in a set­ting that has ac­cess to spe­cial­ist sur­gi­cal or med­i­cal ser­vices, the pos­si­bil­ity of con­sid­er­ing ter­mi­na­tion or pal­lia­tive care in the new­born pe­riod.

‘‘Health prac­ti­tion­ers must re­spect and sup­port any de­ci­sion made by women through­out the screen­ing process,’’ O’Hal­la­han said.

Noa, who is 21 months old, with her fa­ther Joshua Matthews and mother Danielle Bolt.

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