John Jenkinson, whose British parents were advised to abort him when a prenatal blood test showed he had spina bifida, is today a healthy two-year-old. His parents, a Rotherham, Yorkshire, couple are so dissatisfied with medical and Health Authority answers to their questions that they have now written to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, asking her to find out why a doctor recommended an abortion when their son was born healthy.
According to the Rotherham Advertiser (October 26, 1984), Mrs. Jenkinson was advised to abort following the results of a blood test. The following week, a different doctor reviewed the test results and told her the baby would be “perfectly normal.” [The Advertiser report does not specify the kind of blood test done in this case, although it is possible that it was the Maternal Serum Alpha Fetal Protein test discussed by George Gilmore in the March, 1985 Interim.]
The Ombudsman has upheld several complaints made against Doncaster Gate Hospital by Mr. Jenkinson, who says the hospital chiefs are “waffling” and trying to cover up mistakes. The Ombudsman’s report stated that the type of blood test used has a 30 per cent margin of error if the gestational age of the child is not accurate. It concluded that the hospital had withheld important information about the test from Mrs. Jenkinson, had made clerical errors during the tests, and had failed to give comprehensive replies to Mr. Jenkinson’s questions following the birth of his son. The report suggested that the Health Authority should improve the accuracy of such tests.
Mr. Jenkinson says he wants to know, “why two doctors, using data from the same test can draw such entirely different conclusions. It would come as no surprise to me to learn that some pregnant women have had abortions without any need after advice from doctors, based on the results of these inaccurate tests,” he said.
An aide to Mrs. Thatcher has said Mr. Jenkinson’s complaints are “receiving consideration.”
“It is time hospitals put their house in order,” said Mr. Jenkinson. “We must avoid the repetition of a possible loss of a baby’s life through hospital error.”