‘Why is Mater Dei putting my lost daughter above my partner’s life?’

American couple whom doctors told foetus has no chance of survival, refused termination until heartbeat of foetus stops naturally – couple in fear of infection that could endanger woman’s life

Jay Weeldreyer and Andrea Prudente at Mater Dei Hospital
Jay Weeldreyer and Andrea Prudente at Mater Dei Hospital

The partner of an American woman hospitalised at Mater Dei after experiencing a premature breaking of her waters at 16 weeks’ pregnant, has expressed deep disappointment at being unable to request a termination of a pregnancy of a foetus that will not survive.

The couple, Andrea Prudente and Jay Weeldreyer, who were holidaying in Malta, found themselves shocked at the stark contrast of their warm experience at the welcoming nature of the Maltese, and their treatment at Mater Dei on their unforeseen medical emergency.

“We are dumbfounded that staff are attempting to prolong the heartbeat of a baby that will not survive,” Weeldreyer told MaltaToday, noting that they were still receiving diligent healthcare from nurses and midwives. “They will not intervene unless the heartbeat stops or my partner naturally goes into labour.”

Prudente experienced a rupturing of the membranes – breaking of her waters – which led to the expulsion of the amniotic fluid, and the partial detachment of the placenta. Although the foetus still has a heartbeat, doctors informed the couple there was a zero chance of survival for the foetus.

“Any foetus born prior to 21 weeks is not viable and will not survive post birth,” gynaecologist Prof. Isabel Stabile, of Doctors for Choice, told MaltaToday. “With the premature water breaking and the medical anomalies, this foetus has no chance of survival. And international guidelines call for the immediate evacuation of the uterus in this case, when there is zero percent chance of survival of the foetus.”

Weeldreyer told MaltaToday that the couple has been deeply traumatised by staff monitoring the heartbeat of the foetus on a daily basis. “We had been happy to discover we were pregnant and chose not to know the gender of our future child. Now we have discovered it was a girl. The daily monitoring of the heartbeat has made us face the re-traumatisation of losing our daughter, repeatedly.”

“I cannot understand: there is only one person who can walk out of this hospital alive, and it is my partner. Why are they putting my lost daughter, who has no hope of being saved, above my partner? There is no miracle that’s going to happen. We keep being told the baby will not survive.”

The couple said they are unable to grieve the loss of their child, as they scramble to make arrangements to be able to receive the necessary termination of this once-wanted pregnancy, in another country.

Prudente, also found COVID-positive upon admission, is currently at a high risk of infection and is awaiting approval from insurance company for them to be able to travel to receive the necessary treatment. The couple complained of a lack of transparency from hospital staff communicating why they are choosing this course of medical action as opposed to terminating the lost pregnancy. 

“We feel betrayed, scared, and anxious... we can’t believe that something like this could happen in a western country. We find ourselves fighting for a cause that should not have anything to do with us,” Prudente told MaltaToday.

Doctors For Choice said that Prudente was told doctors can only intervene if she is imminently dying. “Not even getting an infection is enough. She was also told doctors cannot even discuss the option of abortion with her,” Prof. Isabel Stabile said.

“The patient is now being forced to watch and wait at Mater Dei, putting her life at risk. The family is rightly distraught and desperate for a solution. Medical evacuation to the UK is being planned but this may not arrive in time.”

Doctors for Choice said international obstetric guidelines state that in such cases where the foetus is not yet viable, before 24 weeks, abortion should be offered to avoid the risk of maternal infection and death. Infection can go through the ruptured membranes, into the uterus, then into the blood leading to death.

In 2012, Savita Halappanavar, a dentist in Ireland, died from sepsis after her request for an abortion was denied on legal grounds. In the wake of a nationwide outcry over her death, voters passed in a landslide the Thirty-Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, which repealed the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland and empowered MPs to legislate for abortion.