Analysis

Friday 25 July 2014

Billy Keane: Left or right, we need to allow Savita's doctors a fair hearing

Billy Keane

Published 26/11/2012|05:00

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I have no agenda and I'm one of the few. In Irish public life, it seems to me that if you are left then you comment from a leftist perspective and if you're right you take the conservative view. You are branded as left or right wing and the name sticks for life. Most take the side they have become aligned to over the years, on every single issue.

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Take gay marriage as an example. Most Irish people are in favour. I am too.

Does that make us left wing? I have a gay pal who wants to bring back the death penalty. Does he kick with the left or the right? I'd love to nationalise the banks. Am I a commie?

All for divorce? So I am, and contraception. Ciotogish left.

Like most of you I am not in favour of abortion on demand. Some might even say that's a chauvinist view. I do agree with the saving of the mother if her life is in danger while she is in labour. So does that opinion make me right wing?

Most of my female colleagues have called on men to do their bit in sticking up for Savita.

Men it seems are a different and autonomous species. That for me is the definition of feminism, an outdated and jaded concept in an Irish context. There should be no such thing as women's rights or men's rights. We are one and the same. It's about people's rights.

Thousands marched for Savita.

Were they marching for justice for a dead woman and her little baby? Was it for abortion on demand? Was it for better guidelines? Was the march a gesture of sympathy with a lady and her baby who died so tragically?

There is a 'we want something done movement'. But what is there to do? How do you legislate for making a man into a God? Who can define in exact terms what is to be done in cases where the mother's life is in danger and the child's life is in danger? Is it always possible for a doctor to diagnose the exact moment when the mother's life will expire if the child's life isn't terminated?

It's not like a bookie's board at the races where the prices are put in front of the public who bet on the outcome.

The only politician who emerged with any credit from all this is the Taoiseach. He stood back from the fray and asked that we wait for the result of an all-party review. He cares and he takes care.

Whatever decision is taken must provide a framework for the balancing of the right to life of mother and child.

Your heart would have to go out to any woman who has to make such a choice. It doesn't bear thinking about. This is a terrible situation none of us would ever wish on our loved ones. And what of the mental condition of the mother after the death of her baby on her say so? Who would be a woman?

We grieve for Savita's husband Praveen. He has called for a fully sworn inquiry. That will take months and cost millions, if previous experience is anything to go by. Women and their babies may die in the meantime and in the end the judges will tell us what we know already.

The doctors do have a guideline. It is a simple one. The doctors can only terminate a pregnancy if there is a clear and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

This is very vague but it does encapsulate the core principle most of us agree with in this country as laid down by the Supreme Court. Men and women.

I'm afraid this is about as much as we can do. It's not like an instruction manual for a flat pack kitchen where every piece fits exactly in its place. Birth and death at maternity time offer no such certainties.

There is a basic principle of justice and that is no man should be a judge in his own case. I worry about the Health Minister James Reilly. He doesn't seem to understand a problem until it becomes a controversy.

We will have a properly and fairly constituted clinical enquiry. What happens after that is anyone's guess.

None of the thousands who marched were present at the deaths of the mother and child. Those who were must provide answers. But they are entitled to a fair hearing.

No man or woman should make a decision until the results of the inquiry are made public. Yet many commentators have already made up their minds because they are left or right even though they are not aware of the actual facts of the diagnosis and the rationale between the subsequent decision-making process.

It was more than 80 years ago and the mother was gone full term. She had three kids under five. Back then the infant mortality rate was very high. Her husband was a good man and he tried his mightiest to get her the best of medical attention.

The good mother died from septicaemia but her baby was saved. He is a wonderful person and did his mother proud by helping so many people.

That mother who died was my grandmother and I don't know if she was left or if she was right.

Irish Independent

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