A PANEL of doctors has been established to sit on committees which will hear appeals from women who have been refused an abortion.
The volunteer doctors, made up of obstetricians and psychiatrists, will be selected to take part in the committees to re-examine the case of a woman who has been turned down for an abortion and wants to appeal the decision.
Details about the appeals procedures have now been given to GPs – although there are still no clinical guidelines which would give advice on how a woman may be judged to be in need of a termination.
Abortion can be carried out where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of a mother, including risk of suicide.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act which was passed last July, and became operational in January, allows for terminations to take place as well as an appeals system.
Although the wider guidelines for doctors are now complete they have not been published and are unlikely to be launched until after next week's elections as the Government aims to head off any protests.
The GPs have been given a flow chart by the HSE setting out the steps which they and a woman will follow if the request for a termination is appealed.
A panel of doctors has been secured and the committees which will hear the appeals will be drawn from their ranks. The appeal has to take place within three days and a decision given in seven days.
If a woman is requesting an abortion because of risk of suicide the committee must be made up of an obstetrician and two psychiatrists.
As yet, however, health professionals have no clear set of guidelines available on how all aspects of the legislation should be implemented, including the making of clinical decisions on whether or nor to carry out a termination in the first place.
The delay in producing the wider guidelines has been criticised by doctors who said they could be faced with a woman in this predicament any day.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said yesterday that it has been working with a Department of Health committee to develop guidance for professionals to implement the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.
"A final draft of this document has been signed off by the committee. It is expected that this document will be ready for publication and dissemination shortly," she added.
The Department of Health will be obliged to produce an annual report detailing the number of terminations.