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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Irish Government sets standard for handling parents and bereavements

Irish Health Minister Simon Harris has said he hopes new national counselling guidelines for parents looking to access bereavement services will offer grieving families the “care and compassion they need”.

Mr Harris, along with the HSE’s director-general Tony O’Brien launched the updated national standards, Standards for bereavement care following pregnancy loss and perinatal death, to an audience of midwives, nurses and parents, who had been through such trauma, at Farmleigh House.

The new standards clearly define the care parents and families can expect to receive following a pregnancy loss or perinatal death.

The standards will be implemented and applied across Ireland’s health service and in all appropriate hospitals and settings.

“Today marks a new beginning for bereavement care services for parents who have the devastating experience of a pregnancy loss or perinatal death,” said Mr Harris, launching the standards.

“I am pleased that the standards will ensure that clinical and counselling services will be in place to support women and their families in all pregnancy loss situations, from early pregnancy loss to perinatal death, as well as situations where there is a diagnosis of a life-limiting or fatal foetal anomaly.”

The 84-page report instructs that mothers, and families, be told any information in a reliably and accurate manner, in a sensitive and supportive approach, taking to account the four central themes of bereavement care – the hospital, baby, parents and staff.

The report also states that the correct phrase to use when breaking news of certain conditions to parents should be ‘life-limiting condition’, as opposed to ‘fatal foetal abnormality’.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute told The Universe that language was incredibly important to parents, and that many parents had testified that negative and misleading language and attitudes could push parents towards abortion and towards a lifetime of regret.

Ms Uí Bhriain said that abortion campaigners were trying to push abortion on disability grounds to overturn the constitutional right to life inserted by the 8th amendment, and described it as a “particularly manipulative and discriminatory push against unborn babies with a disability.”

“When baby’s life will be short, or when a child is very ill, surely our response should be to offer love and support and compassion, not abortion,” she said. “Ending a life is never the solution, and there is nothing compassionate or progressive about abortion.”

The document also requires all maternity hospitals and units to be staffed with bereavement specialists, including a clinical midwife specialising in bereavement care, obstetricians, paediatricians, neonatologists, chaplains, social workers and palliative-care staff.

The report states that bereavement care should be offered in accordance with the religious, secular, ethnic, social and cultural values of the parents.

Picture: Irish Minister for Health Simon Harris. (Brian Lawless/PA).