Dr Martin McCaffrey, a Professor of Pediatrics at University of North Carolina and a neonatologist


On The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.

Mr Kenny interviewed an American doctor called Martin McCaffrey.

At the outset of the programme, as Mr Kenny outlined who he would be speaking to on his show, he mentioned that he would be speaking to “The US doctor who wants us to change our treatment of babies with inevitably chromosome disorders”.

Then, just before the interview took place – in the second part of the show – Mr Kenny introduced the doctor by saying this:

“A professor of neonatal perinatal medicine is urging medical professions and politicians here to reconsider how we treat babies with chromosomal abnormalities. Dr Martin McCaffrey is a neonatologist visiting from the University of North Carolina to address Stormont about the issue and he’s with us in studio. Dr Martin McCaffrey you’re welcome to the programme.”

During the interview…

Pat Kenny: “What kind of outcomes? If a baby is diagnosed with these conditions in the womb, is termination often the outcome?”

Martin McCaffrey: “Correct, so what has been seen is that if you have a pre-natal diagnosis,  before birth diagnosis, and if you have a post-natal diagnosis, the children who are diagnosed pre-natally are often given a message from providers, for a variety of reasons I believe, that is fairly hopeless and fairly dismal and many of those pregnancies will end in termination. Some will not, but many will. After birth, if a baby is undiagnosed but not diagnosed until after the delivery what will happen is that five or six or seven days of age a baby is diagnosed. A baby has already had resuscitation procedures, support procedures initiated. So that diagnosis may be given, it is still a challenging diagnosis for families. But families have seen that their child is actually alive and living and actually that is the case with most of these children when they’re born. They do not die at birth and they will survive, we know now, for fairly significant periods.”


McCaffrey: “I think, typically now, for a variety of reasons, Pat, I was trained and until 2009, I will mark that as my epiphany, I was trained that these children didn’t survive and they all died. In 2009, I went to a meeting where I met a number of parents of these children, I didn’t realise any of them survived. And it was news to me and I started looking at the literature and the literature is clear over the years that maybe as many as 20 or 30% of these children, or 40%, survive to a year.

That 20/30% can survive to five years. And I was absolutely puzzled by this. That this was not how I was trained. I think for a variety of reasons we, as medical providers across the board have been a little bit reluctant to accept that these children can live. Not because they can’t live physiologically but because they have severe developmental handicaps and I think it’s really more of an issue of us not being willing to embrace the vulnerability and the opportunity, the virtue of dependence, that really exists with these children. We all, Pat, are going to leave this life at some point. We are all lethal, we are all temporarily abled and, at some point, we are all going to leave, and I think these children, if we would open up our eyes as providers, we would be able to find the love to support them, it would build a community that would flourish.”

Further to this…

Máire writes:

“Yesterday Newstalk’s Pat Kenny interviewed an American doctor [Dr Martin McCaffrey] on the subject of chronosomal disorders, particularly 13 and 18. To listen to him, you would think that trisomies were nothing to be worrying about, instead of extreme life-limiting conditions.”

It turns out this doctor is a pro-life lobbyist with a Catholic group called Be Not Afraid. This affiliation was not made clear in the broadcast. The doctor was merely introduced as neonatologist, Martin McCaffrey – no mention of his pro-life affiliation whatsoever. The doctor was presented as a neutral authority on the matter.”

“This broadcast was brought to my attention by someone listening to the show who lost her 9-week-old baby daughter to Trisomy 18 and was extremely upset by this.”

Listen back to the interview in full here


‘Thank you for getting in touch with Newstalk. We greatly value you as a listener to The Pat Kenny show.

I would like to assure you that we have given your complaint much consideration.
We feature items involving the pro – life and pro – choice positions regularly. We do not necessarily feature both sides on the same day.

Dr McCafferty made it clear that he was taking part in the programme in his capacity as a neonatologist, and Clinical Professor in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and as a board member of the International Trisomy Alliance.

In the course of the interview Pat did suggest that Dr McCaffery’s position was merely delaying the inevitable and went so far as to say that his position was “ putting parents through ten years of heart break and suffering”

Pat also challenged Dr McCaffery on weather his personal opinion is informing his medical opinion.Pat read many texts throughout the programme putting the pro – choice position to the audience.

Again we greatly appreciate you getting in touch with the programme and we hope that you continue to listen to Newstalk.’

Email from  The Pat Kenny Show to a Newstalk listening ‘sheet reader this afternoon.

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83 thoughts on “Be Not Afraid

    1. ALisonT

      Newstalk have made it very clear that they don’t need to bring balance into interviews. This man seemed very well informed and knowledgeable about the topic of the interview. I am sure lots of people will disagree with him but he is worth listening to if you want to make an informed decision on the topic.

    1. Drogg

      He compared Trisomy to a cleft lip if you cant see something wrong there then you need to get checked out.What he is saying will really hurt families already going through a tragic time.

      1. ahjayzis

        An architect could claim your house will stand with no walls because whatever ridiculous deity he believes in will hold it up and yet still have a valid construction qualification. He’s just a credulous idiot with a qualification.

      2. newsjustin

        It’s OK Drogg. I listened back and he certainly doesn’t compare trisomy to a cleft lip. There’s no possible way to understand what he said as doing that. You must have misheard him.

        He did say that a cleft lip was potentially one of the obvious signs of a potential case of trisomy when the child is born. But no way does he compare the two, not evenue accidentally.

    2. Starina

      he is presenting as an unbiased medical professional but he has a religious agenda to push. it’s no different than the clinics that pretend to give unbiased advice on unplanned pregnancy and then tell women they’ll become cancerous child-abusers if they get an abortion.

        1. Clampers Outside!

          That’s not the complaint. The complaint is lack of balance on the programme. You can’t have it all your own way in debates Justin. If your going to complain about balance as the anti-choice have done, expect complaints when the anti-choice side do the same. Simples.

          1. newsjustin

            Balance doesn’t seem to have been the actual problem that Maire flagged in the post.

            As we know, the presenter can achieve balance by his own questioning and comments. Pat did this towards the end of the issue when abortion came up.

            The Doctor specifically said that he wasn’t there to give his personal opinions on abortion.

            It’s important to point out that abortion wasn’t the topic under discussion for the bulk of this interview. Sick children was the topic.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            But balance in the media is a problem your anti abortion colleagues constantly whine about so surely they should support complaints made here. Graham Linehan and his wife weren’t even allowed to talk about their abortion experience without petty minded anti abortionists making official complaints about business.

            This man made statements about medical treatments and prognoses based on anti abortion OPINION. There was no pro choice perspective to balance the opinion he shamefully presented as fact. The BAI has a responsibility to uphold any complaints about this.

          3. Bob

            “As we know, the presenter can achieve balance by his own questioning and comments.”
            Actually, we know that that’s not good enough, as made abundantly clear by pro-life campaigners who register complaints against broadcasters for failing to provide an opposing view.

          4. newsjustin

            Moyest. See my reply to Clamps below.

            Bob – and the BAI have repeatedly said that there’s no necessity for another guest to hold an opposing view. The presenter can do the job. Which is right.

          5. newsjustin

            Should complain to BAI so. I’d say they’ll slap them on the wrist for the incomplete intro but find that Pat did enough to ensure balance.

        2. ReproBertie

          Well we don’t know because there was nobody there to question his claims about, for example, 20%/30% surviving for five years. I personally have no experience with chromosome disorders so I can’t say whether he’s telling the truth or following the usual pro-life tactic of either gross exaggeration or downright lying.

    3. The Real Jane

      He completely undermines and underestimates the difficulty of caring for a baby with these conditions for the parents. Now, he’s not proposing that he actually takes care of them so I can see why being honest about exactly how challenging it can be isn’t really his problem, but it’s a dishonest and unbalanced account.

      Ultimately, not everyone would wish to terminate a pregnancy with a diagnosis of 13 or 18 but I think people should have the opportunity – if possible – to decide whether this is a challenge they can meet. Waving the issue away and telling everyone that basically it’s all grand and many die prematurely anyway so, you know… is truly disgusting.

      1. ReproBertie

        That he would dismiss the probability of them dying prematurely with a blasé “sure we’re all going to die at some stage” type comment is insulting.

          1. Daisy Chainsaw

            He failed to get elected this year, even though his posters were tinged with an obvious blueshirt hue!

    4. Donal

      Where is the balance?
      If this was a doctor who was part of a vocal pro-choice movement who said things that the anti-choice movement didn’t like, and there was no anti-choice viewpoint on show to debate, and their affiliation with a pro-choice movement wasn’t announced, there would be uproar from Breda and David in their weekly national newspaper columns, and on social media from Cora and her cohort.
      Will they be as vocal in arguing to the BAI that there wasn’t balance in this discussion?

      The matter with what he said is that there should have been balance and he should have been introduced as an anti-choice campaigner. Anything less was dishonest by Kenny.

          1. Don Pidgeoni

            Same! I’ll only bore people if they make the mistake of talking about running. Then I’m in there a Jehovah’s witness banging down your door.

          1. Disgruntled Goat

            Started running a year ago as team sport wasn’t cutting it fitness-wise anymore and I
            of it.
            Am I doing it wrong or is there some kind of mass delusion going on??

          2. Janet, I ate my avatar

            you may be trying for too much too soon, build up distance slowly, take your rest days, don’t go faster than your body has adjusted to yet, get a running buddy, sign up for some short fun races to set goals, you’ll never look back !

          3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            For me, I need some banging tunes to sing along to and I would kill a kitten rather than run that first mile (i wouldn’t really) but after that I could run for ages. You kinda have to learn what works for you – are you better in the morning or the evening, with or without music, which music etc.

        1. Caroline™

          As a former smoker who took up running in her 30s – and did I mention I don’t have a TV? – I think you’re both on the money. But you forgot about people who don’t have TVs. Did you know that I don’t have a TV? Is that something you were aware of?

          1. Spaghetti Hoop

            A colleague used to brag that she and her bloke didn’t have a TV but a fish tank instead.

            Oh how I laughed.

      1. Don Pidgeoni

        Whenever I’m near a born again or hear one, my farty sense goes bananas. Like spider man but more gaseous. And I was tooting like a big brass band when I heard this guy.


  1. Clampers Outside!

    The complaint :
    Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show on Sept 27th 2016 featured a Dr Martin McCaffery on the subject of fatal foetal abnormalities, specifically chromosome disorders. The Dr is an anti-abortion lobbyist with the ‘Be Not Afraid’ lobby group.
    There was no representative from the pro-choice movement on the show to balance the Dr’s arguments and I wish to register a complaint against Newstalk.

    All complaints to the BAI can be made here:

    Who says we don’t know how to complain in Ireland… sock it to ’em!

    1. newsjustin

      But Pat Kenny provided the balance, where it was needed.

      Other complaints have been successful because the presenter failed to provide balance in the absence of an alternative point of view speaker.

      Also, other cases have featured actual, overt and unchallenged campaigning for constitutional change.

      I support your right in making a complaint. Go for it. But I don’t think you have a strong case at all.

          1. Bob

            A person with a political agenda being interviewed about an apparent different topic, but which changes to an open campaign piece, yet isn’t challenged and said agenda is not mentioned to the public. Funny, when it’s a pro-choice person, this is more than enough to righteously complain

          2. newsjustin

            How was it an “open campaign piece”? The guy spoke on the discipline he’s an expert in and specifically refused to give his personal opinions on abortion.

        1. newsjustin

          If the facts were the same, even remotely similar, you’d have a case. But they aren’t. The D#Arcy case involved a presenter at sea who couldn’t give an opposing view and guests who had made an advert for a campaign to change the constitution.

          Compare that to an interview where the presenter did his job and the guest spoke about his area of expertise on a topic that wasn’t abortion. He specifically declined to give his views on aborting. He certainly wasn’t campaigning for any change in constitution, on any matter and certainly wasn’t unveiling an advert to bolster his case.

          Face it Clampers. These cases aren’t the same. Pat should have flagged the Doc’s membership of the prolife group – especially when Pat steered the conversation to abortion. But that’s all.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Pat is not a doctor. Ray D’Arcy cannot provide “balance” to someone talking about their personal experiences when he has no personal experience of the subject. Face it. You’re wrong. Again.

          2. newsjustin

            Ray wasn’t required to provide balance on a couples personal experience. It was their political campaigning where his input was required. The BAI said he didn’t provide it.

            And Pat is a clever, experienced current affairs broadcaster. He doesn’t need to be an expert in every contentious issue that crops up to provide balance.

            This is just what the BAI have repeatedly said. I get that you’re dissapointed that a guy was on the radio not recommending sick children are aborted, but there’s no real case here.

          3. MoyestWithExcitement

            “I get that you’re dissapointed that a guy was on the radio not recommending sick children are aborted”

            Yeah, shameful character assassination is all you have. Just paint everyone who disagrees with you as a blood thirsty sociopath. A political broadcaster cannot debate a doctor on medical issues. I’m actually embarrassed for you that you’re trying to push that line. Just when I thought you couldn’t get any more desperate.

          4. newsjustin

            Maybe you should complain to the BAI so. Prove you’re point, like.

            Prove me wrong Moyest. Prove me wrong.

          5. Daisy Chainsaw

            “I get that you’re dissapointed that a guy was on the radio not recommending sick children are aborted”

            Youth Defence members were at the Arcmarch on Saturday reccommending just that. Did you not see their banner?

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      Not to mention foreigners butting in on Irish issues! Anti choicers hate when foreigners have opinions!

        1. missred

          Brianna Parkins – bad foreigner.

          Right-wing American Christian orgs with loadsa money and a foetus for a logo – good foreigner.

  2. Turgenev

    Surely what the doc is saying is that yes, termination is an option, but while some people choose it, others choose to carry the pregnancy to term and nurse the very sick baby for the months or years it may live? It doesn’t seem to me to be a terrible thing to be saying. It’s a difficult choice for a pregnant woman, but the woman has the right to know, and to choose which option to take?

  3. kellma

    He has a bit of a “jarhead” look about him. Anwyay no problem with his comments per se, as long as they are factual, which you would hope they were given his profession. However, his bias should have been made clear because he didn’t balance those facts with the decisions parents have to make in those situations. It is not just a case of a baby living for a year. You have to also include the facts of what that existence is likely to look like for that year. This information is important as is for cancer victims who decide if they want to put their bodies through gruelling treatment only to postpone an inevitable outcome by 2-3 months….

      1. nellyb

        Thanks! Interesting stuff there.
        Key research: Study: Very low abortion rates in Irish families with Trisomy diagnosis (2013)
        “In contrast, in the Republic of Ireland, where our series is based, prenatal screening for fetal aneuploidy is not part of routine antenatal care. There is no national policy on the provision of prenatal screening for aneuploidy. In an Irish study, Lynch and Malone [21] found that while 72% of healthcare professionals surveyed believed that detailed ultrasound scans should be performed for fetal anomaly, only 10% routinely discussed prenatal screening for fetal aneuploidy. This is in spite of findings that more than 73% of Irish pregnant woman would avail of fetal anomaly scans or biochemical testing if it was made available to them [22].”
        – “There is no national policy on the provision of prenatal screening for aneuploidy – make a note of that, potential parents.
        – “only 10% [of doctors] routinely discussed prenatal screening for fetal aneuploidy”
        – “This is in spite of findings that more than 73% of Irish pregnant woman would avail of fetal anomaly scans or biochemical testing if it was made available to them”

        What do the obstetricians have to say about these three things? Fear and Loathing in Las Dublin.

        1. Daisy Chainsaw

          It seems like they don’t want women having access to detailed, early testing for fear they might get to choose what happens in their own pregnancies.

        2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Wowsers, that bad. So basically, unless you ask you ain’t getting tests you should be able to get?

  4. Big_G

    newsjustin, the doctor was there to give his opinion on termination of pregnancies involving trisomies. This has implications in our current abortion debate. The fact that he refused to give his own personal opinions on abortion is disingenuous because he was giving them by proxy and wrapping them in the supposed unbiased view of a medical practitioner. I would posit that Pat couldn’t really deliver balance to this interview as he doesn’t have the knowledge of the subject matter to counter the experts opinions. And they are just that – opinions. The point that is central to this that is seemingly ignored is the quality of life. The religious/anti-choice campaigners wrongly have a binary view of a successful pregnancy, they ignore that these children and their families may suffer even if/especially if the baby is born alive. Extrapolate from that viewpoint that what people need is the ability to chose how they would like to manage their pregnancy involving a potentially severely disabled child that may not survive very long. They need to be informed of the benefits and drawbacks of continuing a pregnancy in light of these diagnoses without bias or judgment. Unfortunately, arguing against offering the option of termination is not a rational position to take in my view, the OPINION of this medical practitioner notwithstanding. In this way, the people that matter the most make the decision, that is, the parents. This is called the patient centre approach. You may say this ignores the rights of the child, but in my view the rights of the parents and child are intertwined and to think that parents would make a decision that is wrong for them and their child is not correct.

    1. Big_G

      If he really wanted to do a study on this phenomenon that he is hypothesizing about he would move here and do one, seeing as we don’t offer the option of termination in these cases.

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