Marion Mifsud Mora with her daughter in Mdina, September 2014 – the day before her waters broke.
While on holiday in Malta, Marion’s waters broke at 17 weeks of pregnancy. As infection set in and the danger of her dying became very real, doctors left everything ‘in God’s hands’ and refused to terminate her pregnancy.
This is the story of a woman who survived against all odds, and who cannot understand why in Malta it is more important to give birth to a dead foetus than to save the mother with the right medical care.
“It was on the bus to Valletta – with my young daughter, ironically named Valetta – that I first realised something was wrong. Seventeen weeks pregnant, I was on what was supposed to be a relaxing holiday in Malta, rediscovering my roots and enjoying some quality time with my little daughter.
Suddenly, while on the way to the capital, my waters broke. At 17 weeks, this was not expected. There was nothing wrong with my pregnancy and things had been extremely normal. So much so, that at first I thought I had actually peed myself.
It didn’t take long to establish that I hadn’t, and that something was very wrong. I went straight to Mater Dei not knowing what to expect, hoping that this was some minor hitch.
It wasn’t. I soon realised that I had lost all my water, even though I was not given all the medical information and kept very much in the dark. I kept asking what was happening, but the answers were vague.
My husband grabbed the first flight from Canada, which is where we live, here. You can all imagine the shock we were all under. When he arrived in hospital, they finally gave him all the information that they had kept away from me.
I had, indeed, lost all my water. And my pregnancy was not viable any more. My husband was told that at 17 weeks, there was no way that the baby would survive. I struggled to understand why they had not given me this information immediately, and had only made it available to my husband. Is it because he was ‘the man’?
This is where the biggest ordeal started. Infection set in and I started losing strength. It was clear that the pregnancy needed to be terminated. I had wanted this baby and I was going through massive emotional and physical trauma. It was not even as though I was seeking termination because I got pregnant by accident. The fact that this baby was not going to make it was a cause of huge heartbreak. But, of course, my husband and I had our daughter to think of, and my health. The only solution was to terminate the pregnancy as soon as possible as, meantime, my life was in danger.
I had no idea of the disaster that would follow. My life was in danger because of the unviable pregnancy and, anywhere else, the normal and routine procedure would have been to terminate. It is a pretty basic medical procedure.
But no, not in Malta. Everytime my husband and I insisted on termination, we were told by medical professionals that “this was in God’s hand” and that “miracles do happen”. They refused to terminate.
Meantime, I kept getting weaker. It was obvious that, unless I received the right medical care, I was not going to survive this. What should have been a simple matter became a life and death issue simply because Malta refuses to terminate any pregnancy, even when the mother’s life is in danger.
The entire situation was so wrong. They were risking leaving my daughter an orphan in order not to terminate a pregnancy that was not viable. There was no way that the baby was going to live, at this stage.
When someone mentions that they are ‘pro-life’, I remember this situation and snort. They are not ‘pro-life’, they are pro-pregnancy. My daughter was alive and she needed her mother. I was still alive, but they didn’t want to save my life. They preferred to let me die in order to give birth to a foetus that was dead. How is this pro-life?
Meantime, time was passing and my health was deteriorating fast. I was not even being given the right medication, but a weaker version that didn’t ‘interfere’ with my pregnancy. There was still a weak heartbeat, so they continued to refuse termination even though the baby wouldn’t survive the birth at 18 weeks of pregnancy. I kept on risking my life to give birth to a baby that would die. My family and sisters were getting extremely worried, everyone aware of how important it was to remove the baby from my body.
We involved the insurance and tried to get emergency evacuation. Lawyers got involved, until finally the insurance company’s emergency evacuation team arrived. The first thing they did was stop anyone from Mater Dei from touching me. They removed all the IV and started their own care and medication. They got me out of there and on a plane in 15 minutes.
Initially, they were trying to take me to Italy or Germany, but the Maltese authorities kept on being difficult and risking my life, by not releasing the paper work. It was a real hostage situation. I could have hemorrhaged on the way there, and I was a medical risk to the doctor who agreed to take me on.
As soon as we landed, I delivered the baby naturally because by then all options had become impossible. There was more bleeding that even in a C-Section. I was sick for 3 months after, and the infection kept coming back as I had not been immediately given adequate medication.
Mentally, the whole experience left me traumatised. While I was at Mater Dei, my only focus was staying alive. I was in survival mode. Because of this, I didn’t deal with the loss of the pregnancy immediately. I bear the physical and emotional scars to this date.
Happily, the following year I got pregnant again and was immediately placed on bed rest. Today, I have a wonderful son. My daughter still has her mother, but it’s not thanks to the doctors in Malta.
I do understand there is a law that needs to be respected.. But medical situations need to be looked at individually. Doctors are there to save lives. Not every case is black and white.
Also, there needs to be choice for young girls that are raped. This really angers me, that a woman who has been raped has no choice in the matter of any pregnancy that follows.
Most of the Maltese community in Canada cannot believe that the situation remains so primitive in Malta. Everybody knows somebody who has been in this situation. Everybody believes that a woman has the right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy that is endangering her life, or not.
The fact that the law does not lay this down in black and white is unbelievable.
I was lucky to get out of the country in time and I still consider myself extremely lucky to live in a country where the woman’s life is protected by law, where she has the right to choose. But I wonder how many Maltese women are placed in the same situation? How many Maltese women’s lives are endangered because the doctors refuse to do their duty and terminate a dangerous pregnancy?
The law needs to be addressed and fast. It is an issue of women’s medical rights, after all.”