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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wrong twin aborted

Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into a botched selective abortion that the Vatican has described as the result of a “culture of perfection” resembling Nazi eugenics.

it emerged that a surgeon had accidentally terminated a healthy foetus instead of its twin with Down’s syndrome. The operation – on a 38-year-old woman 18 weeks into her pregnancy – was performed at the San Paolo hospital in Milan in June but has only now come to light. The foetus with Down’s syndrome was also aborted subsequently.

The revelation has reignited the debate in Italy over abortion, which was legalised only in 1978. The law allows terminations of healthy foetuses up to the 90th day of pregnancy, though abortions can be performed at a later stage if there is a risk to the life of the mother or the foetus is malformed.

Anna Maria Marconi, the gynaecologist who carried out the Milan abortion, said that the woman – who has not been named – requested the operation after an amniocentesis test.

Professor Marconi said that her conscience was clear. The foetuses, which had been identical, had changed positions in the womb between the last scan and the operation, an “act of fate that could not have been foreseen”, she said. The professor was backed by the hospital authorities.

The mother, who has a small son, said that her life had been ruined. “Neither my husband nor I can sleep at night,” she told the Corriere della Sera, which first reported the blunder. She said that the happiness she and her husband had experienced when they learnt that she was expecting twins had been transformed into heartbreak.

Her husband said that they were “truly desperate over this terrible mistake” and were consulting family lawyers.