Donegal midwife forced to go public

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said he understands that a settlement has been offered by the HSE to Donegal midwife Philomena Canning who is terminally ill.

Philomena Canning


Ms Canning, who has ovarian cancer, took a case in 2015 over the HSE’s withdrawal of her indemnity insurance to practise as a midwife pending an investigation into two alleged safety risks brought to its attention in 2014. She has since been fully exonerated.
Last week she was forced to speak publicly from her hospital bed in an attempt to force the HSE to allow her access to Pembro treatment which costs €6,000 a dose and to expedite her settlement.
The HSE offered a settlement in 2015 but Ms Canning refused it on the basis that she wanted a court hearing over the issues which had given rise to her suspension. She changed her position in recent weeks following her diagnosis on the basis that she needed money to access the drug Pembro in an attempt to prolong her life.
At the time of going to press, the HSE had not yet agreed to the condition that the settlement be linked to Ms Canning having access to the ‘Pembro’ which has been sanctioned for cervical cancer patients.
A native of Glenvar, Ms Canning has previosly said her early experiences as a midwife in Saudi Arabia and the Australian Outback influenced her career.
She has delivered more than 500 babies over the last 30 years in women’s homes. However, she has not practised since September 2014 when the HSE revoked her indemnity insurance pending an investigation. It has since been reinstated.
This week dozens of supporters of the independent midwife gathered at Leinster House to deliver a petition to Minister for Health Simon Harris, calling on him to instruct the Health Service Executive to settle the terminally-ill woman’s case against it.
Ms Canning’s midwifery practices were exonerated by both her own and independent experts following that analysis. She wants her case against the HSE settled and compensation paid so that she can get access to the drug Pembro, which would be required once every three weeks.
The midwife said last week that time was running out for her legal action as there was no “due process” in her dismissal and no evidence against her.
Her friend and former client Ciara Considine said on Tuesday: “We are gathering firstly to express our fury at the inhumane treatment by the HSE of a revered midwife who faces a terminal diagnosis, and to urge Minister for Health Simon Harris to ensure that her express wishes are immediately granted.”
Mr Considine said those present, who included friends, family, activists and former clients, were gathering “in celebration of a giant among women”.
“Philomena has touched all our lives, whether it be through her midwifery or activism, or simply as a loyal and loving friend.
“She has fought all her life for women’s rights in childbirth, to autonomy, to respect, to the right to choose, and has been a leading advocate here and internationally for natural birth. We salute her and express our love and gratitude – and we let her know that, just as she was there for us when we most needed her, we are here for her now – to hold her, to carry her, to fight for her until she gets the justice she so richly deserves.”

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