News Health

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Abortion law imposes no time limit, doctors told

Published 12/08/2014 | 02:30

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The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was passed in the wake of the death of Savita  Halappanavar
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was passed in the wake of the death of Savita Halappanavar

DOCTORS, who have been issued with guidelines on the new abortion law, can intervene to save the life of a mother even in cases where the pregnancy is well advanced, it has emerged.

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The guidelines point out that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, passed last summer, has no time limit imposed for carrying out a procedure.

The document stresses that while doctors are required to "preserve unborn human life as far as practicable" they cannot compromise the woman's right to life.

The legislation sets out no time limit for doctors carrying out a medical procedure where a pregnant woman's life is in real and substantial danger due to physical complications or suicide risk.

The guidelines, drawn up over many months by an expert committee, are aimed at giving advice to doctors on the practical application of the law, setting out the form of assessment involved as well as their obligations to a woman whose pregnancy may put her life at risk

If the unborn baby has reached viability and the woman's life is in danger "the best course of action may be deemed to be an early induction or caesarean section," the document added.

"In such cases, the medical procedure would not fall under the Act as it is not a medical procedure during which or as a result of which an unborn human life is ended."

Once delivered, medical staff should ensure the necessary care for the baby in accordance with clinical guidelines and best practice.

In cases where a woman's life is in danger due to "suicide intent" three doctors, including two psychiatrists and an obstetrician, must certify the termination of pregnancy is the only way of averting the risk to her life.

A woman turned down for an abortion, due to physical or suicide risk, must apply in writing for a review and a committee must be convened no later than three days after receipt of the application.

A doctor involved in the initial assessment is disqualified from sitting on the review committee. The review must be completed within seven days and the decision must an unanimous one.

Irish Independent

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