Limerick maternity hospital sees major drop in ‘emergency blessings’

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

There was a decline in emergency baptisms at the University Maternity Hospital Limerick from 2002 to 2016

There was a decline in emergency baptisms at the University Maternity Hospital Limerick from 2002 to 2016

MEDICAL experts have argued that maternity hospitals should collate a list of non-Catholic and non-Christian pastoral personnel who can carry out emergency baptisms, following a study showing the practice’s decline in Limerick over 15 years.

Staff and researchers in the UL Hospitals Group carried out a major study, in which they analysed neonatal patients that received emergency baptisms at University Maternity Hospital Limerick from 2002 to 2016. 

The study, entitled “Spiritual care in neonatology: analysis of emergency baptisms in an Irish neonatal unit over 15 years”, was published in the August edition of the Irish Journal of Medical Science.  An emergency baptism is a special form of blessing when there is a danger of death. This is predominant among Catholic parents who may be of the belief that babies who have not been baptised cannot enter heaven and, instead, enter limbo. 

However, in 2007, the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI removed the concept of limbo. 

The findings show that there have been 354 emergency blessings since 2002. The highest number was in 2003 with 55 baptisms. This dropped to 10 in 2016. 

A total of 113 died following their baptism, 37.7% of whom died on the day of baptism. 

The 354 emergency baptisms were carried out by Catholic priests, Hindu and Buddhist leaders, staff midwives or nurses, doctors and family members.