HC Deb 06 July 1979 vol 969 cc768-9W
Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether the report by the St. Helens and Knowsley area health authority on the abortion incident at Whiston hospital on 4 January found that the foetus was alive at 8.30 p.m. or capable of being born alive; why no birth or death certificates were issued; what conclusion was drawn from the evidence of eye witnesses among the nursing staff who claimed that for a period of three hours there was movement in the foetus; and if he will publish the report.

Dr. Vaughan

Following are the answers to the specific questions: No, the foetus was not considered to be alive or capable of surviving. Therefore the question of registration did not arise. Twitches observed by the doctor who examined the foetus and by other eye-witnesses could not constitute signs of life. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that, as set out in my letter to him which I published on 2 July in reply to his question, examination of the foetus showed that it was of 18–19 weeks' gestation and that it weighed only 300 grams—10½ oz. In this respect I refer him to my reply on 5 July to his question about gestational age—[Vol. 969, c.497–8 and 725.]

As to the question of publishing the report, in order to facilitate the full co-operation of all those who were invited to give evidence, the area health authority gave them a firm guarantee that no report would be published from which they might be identified. In the confidential report I have received, the people involved are identified, and could be identified even if their names were deleted. I do not therefore propose to publish the report.

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