Doctors and Community Pressure Brings Pregnant Woman from Nauru to Australia

Most of you will have heard about Dee who at 37 years of age was pregnant on Nauru with a breech baby after previously suffering two miscarriages (See Guardian Article).

D4R became concerned when at 32 weeks the baby still had not spontaneously turned and we discovered she was also being medicated with a class C medication without her informed consent as to the risks it could pose to her newborn. In Australia, pregnant women on Class C medications require consultations between the patient, GP, obstetrician, neurologist or psychiatrist. As well as a paediatrician, who would ideally be a neonatologist. In Dee’s case she had none of these. In fact her daily medication packet had another patient’s name printed on it, leading her to wonder if she was actually the correct recipient.

More alarming still was the suggestion that an External Cephalic Version  would be attempted on the island. Which carries a success rate of under 40% for primiparous women, and even less when her previous miscarriages and anterior wall fibroid were factored in.

The risks of an emergency Caesarian Section were unacceptably high. There are limited transfusion facilities, if she were to have a Post Partum Haemorrhage or Antepartum Haemorrhage. There was  no neonatologist available for after delivery or indeed last week when Dee developed pre-eclampsia. There are also few appropriate services such as reliable pathology to monitor her wellbeing. 

D4R had written to DIBP Chief Medical Officer Dr Brayley several times since December to formally advise him of the risks and had a number of phone discussions with him on how best to manage the increasingly urgent situation.

Instrumental in our advocacy was the support of AMA President Dr Michael Gannon, Head of Department of Obstetrics at St John of God Hospital, who also wrote to Dr Brayley requesting Dee’s high risk pregnancy is managed appropriately, safely and in accordance with Australian standards.

The Australian College of Midwives, the Australian Midwives and Nursing Federation and the Royal Australian and NZ College of Obstetricians also responded to our call and put out public statements.

That Dee was eventually brought to Australia last Friday is thanks to the hard work and persistence of not only the health professionals and especially the obstetricians we consulted who provided around the clock advice on her developing clinical picture, but also the community advocates who persistently contacted the Department, the Government and their local MPs.

A huge thanks goes to all the journalists who kept the situation alive in the public domain and maintained the pressure on the Department rather than allowing it to be brushed aside.

To date we have no word on how Dee and the baby are faring, but we are confident that as a community we have done all that we could in bringing her to Australia to have the best possible obstetric care.

Thank you to all who joined us in this effort, demonstrating the power of what we, the community can achieve working together.

Senate Hearing Report Due March 2017


On the evening of Wednesday 8 February, The Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs held the preliminary hearing into Serious allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of asylum seekers in relation to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, and any like allegations in relation to the Manus Regional Processing Centre.

If you are able to watch this online (click here) it is a riveting 2 hours.


Doctors for Refugees was among several organisations who made submissions to this inquiry and we were very happy to hear DIBP’s promise at this initial hearing to respond to every individual case raised in Doctors for Refugees' and the AMA’s submissions.

We thank Senator Nick McKim for raising and following up this commitment.

Ongoing Action

1. Hamid Khazaei Coronial Inquest: Resumes Monday February 13th and continues for 2 weeks.

2. The continued challenge to the Australian Border Force Act: Last year, following the action of Doctors For Refugees and the Fitzroy Legal Centre, the Federal government amended the Border Force Act to exempt Health Professionals from criminal prosecution for reporting abuse or neglect to individuals in detention. This notably did not include teachers, social workers or other guardians. Doctors For Refugees will continue its challenge to the Australian Border Force Act so that teachers, social workers or other guardians are also included in exemption from criminal prosecution.

3. Senate inquiry into serious allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of Asylum Seekers in relation to Nauru and Manus Island: The  Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee will present their report by 30 March 2017. Current submissions may be accessed online.

Specialists Urgently Needed

Doctors for Refugees are urgently seeking Cardiologists. This is for help in reviewing records and does not involve any face to face contact. Please email if you are interested.

Upcoming Events

9/4/17  Palm Sunday Refugee Rally, across the country. Hoping for a big d4r turn out. Meeting spots will be emailed closer to the date.  (Facebook event for Sydney).
Copyright © 2017 Doctors for Refugees, All rights reserved.

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