Maternity, Media and the Law - 3 May 2018 - Dublin

Duration: 1 Day


Maternity, Media and the Law
9.00-17.00 Thursday 3rd May 2018
The Radisson Blu Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin 8

RCPI - 6 Medical CPD Hours
NMBI - 7 CEU Units
6 Legal CPD Hours

The focus of this conference will be on the interaction between the Irish Maternity Services, the Media and the Law - which increasingly seems to happen in relation to serious adverse clinical outcomes.

The effectiveness of the media in both accelerating political responsiveness and in allowing tragic personal narratives to be told is well recognised. There are however increasing concerns about the negative impact of some media coverage on clinicians, who are not in a position to comment on individual clinical circumstances; it may also be a contributory factor in the retention and recruitment of clinical staff.

Good news seems less newsworthy when it comes to the Irish Maternity Services.

The power of social media for the rapid dissemination of personal commentary and information is also recognised  and needs to be evaluated in terms of its positive and negative potentials.

This conference will bring together, for the first time ever in an Irish context, service-users/advocates, clinicians, healthcare managers, journalists, lawyers, communication and media experts. With plenty of opportunities for audience involvement, the multidisciplinary panel of speakers and delegates will exchange ideas and experience and explore how best to strike a balance in relation to how news is reported -  in relation to accuracy, confidentiality, transparency, fairness, respect and the public interest.

Conference Overview


Professor Chris Fitzpatrick - Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist

Chairperson’s Opening Address
Ms Claire Byrne - Journalist and Broadcaster

Social Media & Medicine - Is it Good, Bad or Ugly?
Dr Maeve Eogan - Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist
•    As an active member of #wearedelivering on Twitter, Dr Eogan's presentation will explore the positives, pitfalls and challenges of social media both for healthcare professionals & patients.

Duty of the Press to Maintain the Highest Professional and Ethical Standards
Mr Peter Feeney - Press Ombudsman
•    The Office of the Press Ombudsman as an alternative to issuing defamation proceedings
•    Conciliated resolutions rather than formal decisions
•    If time is of the essence to a client’s reputation the Press Ombudsman provides a speedy resolution
•    The role of lawyers in the complaints-handling process

10.30am - Q&A                                    
10.45am - Coffee and Networking

Call the Midwife - A Midwife’s Perspective of Maternity, Media and the Law -
Ms Mary Brosnan - Director of Midwifery & Nursing, National Maternity Hospital, Adjunct Associate Professor, UCD

  • The National Maternity strategy and opportunities for midwifery practice The Media portrayal of midwives 'Heros, Heroines or Handmaidens'
  • The Campaign for Normal birth and Better Birth, what does it mean for women?
  • Midwives and lawyers, an adversarial relationship?
  • The Ethics of care versus the ethics of justice

Feminism, Empowerment and the Irish Maternity Services - A New Narrative for the 21st century
Dr Aoife Mullally, Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist
•    History of maternity services in Ireland
•    The impact of the Eighth Amendment on maternity care in Ireland
•    The future of women’s health and maternity services

Maternity Service Users: Story Makers and Story Takers
Dr Krysia Lynch - Chairperson Association for Improvements in the
Maternity Services Ireland (AIMSI)

  • What motivates maternity service users to turn to the media?
  • Why maternity service users need the media to investigate for them?
  • Who really controls the story and the agenda in maternity services?
  • The value of public discourse
  • To what extent is the media representative of the collective maternity care experience?
  • Where is the discussion is really happening - service user to service user on social media
  • Social media challenges between maternity service  provider and maternity service user
  • Models of discourse and productive synergy between service providers and service users in other countries;  
  • The presentation of evidence vs the presentation of advertorials or soft stories: reader beware
  • How the media can affect those who are pregnant

12.35pm - Q&A                              
1.00pm - Lunch

In the Eye of the Storm: the case of Dr Hadiza -Bawa Garba- The implications for patients and clinicians
Prof Chris Fitzpatrick Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist
The case or Dr Hadiza-Bawa Garba has perturbed many clinicians working in the Republic of Ireland. As present, many feel that they are just one step away from the High Court or the Coroner’s Court and two steps away from the Medical Council and a newspaper headline.

Promoting an ethos of open disclosure seems, at times, to be at odds with the media’s penchant for sensationalism and an adversarial legal system in which law and justice are
increasingly seen as not being part of the same equation.

Many clinicians have asked - could what happened to Dr Hadiza-Bawa Garba happen to them? And what is to stop it happening?

Cliona Christle, Partner A&L Goodbody Healthcare & Hospitals
Dr Hadiza - Bawa Garba : manslaughter by gross negligence the English position.
What is the position in Ireland ?
What is the risk of Ireland following suit ?
How should clinicians respond ?

In an Era of Digital Media – A ‘No Comment’ is Not Enough
Dr Paul Connors, National Director of Communications, HSE
When healthcare professionals and management have to deal with tragic maternity outcomes they face a multitude of challenges, including communication and reputation, particularly in an era where 98% of our citizens own either a smart-phones and tablets. The advice that those managing such crises receive can often be conflicting and unhelpful as the news agenda builds a head-of-steam and Tweets on the crisis are continuously re-tweeted.
On one hand your lawyers warn you that anything you say could impact the outcome of future litigation and on the other hand your communications advisors tell you that you will have 200 women presenting for deliveries in the week ahead who are likely to be concerned. You are advised that you need to give them some reassurance that the services your hospital provides are safe. In my talk I will deal with this conflict (real or perceived) and discuss some examples to provide some guidance.

I also wish to touch on the area of privacy and data-protection and discuss the extent of information that we can provide in situations where the protected party decides to provide detailed information to the media. Finally, I will question the rights and wrongs of the media conducting interviews with people who have undergone a very recent significant trauma.

3.15pm - Coffee and Networking

Editorial Balance and the 8th Amendment
Ms Deirdre Veldon, Deputy Editor Irish Times

Long before the campaign began in earnest, it was clear the debate on the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment would be fraught, as both sides keenly and sincerely defend what they each believe to be the most fundamental of human rights.

The role of Irish media outlets in this debate is not to take sides but to facilitate a reasoned debate on the issue, reflecting and respecting diverse and contrary opinions. But this debate is so highly charged, it has the potential to derail traditional notions of objectivity and balance in journalism.

As media organisations, our obligation is to serve the public interest by ensuring voters are equipped with the facts they need to make a fully informed decision about the referendum.

Challenges facing Trainees in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Dr Suzanne O’ Sullivan - Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist
•    A national survey of trainees
•    Results show serious impact of media on trainee’s morale
•    Also serious impact of medico-legal climate on working patterns and increased fear at work
•    Trainees at risk of leaving specialty

‘Striking a Balance’ - Open Discussion

Closing Remarks - Claire Byrne, Journalist & Broadcaster

5.00pm - Conference Close

Download the Brochure


If you have any queries, please contact:

Fergal O'Neill
Training Consultant
Tel: 01 8788 265

Organising Committee:

Susie Shine (La Touche Training)
Adrian Kiernan (La Touche Training)
Krysia Lynch (AIMSI)
Deirdre Veldon (Irish Times)
Chris Fitzpatrick (Chair)

To book this course:

Call us on 01 8788 255 for more information or to book this course