News Irish News

Sunday 22 September 2019

Abortion bill 'abusive' and 'idiotic', says leading psychiatrist

The proposal to assess suicidal pregnant woman by six consultants has been deemed “abusive” and “idiotic” by one of the country’s leading perinatal psychiatrists.

Dr Anthony McCarthy, said he thought it was “some sort of sick joke” when he learned of the idea.

His comments come as the Government is currently considering allowing doctors perform terminations if there is a significant risk to the life of the pregnant woman.

This would include the case of suicide.

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland, Dr McCarthy who is one of only three such psychatrists in the country said, this would be traumatic and abusive for the women involved.

He said: "If a woman is seriously distressed and depressed in pregnancy, and potentially suicidal or having suicidal ideas, the idea that you would bring her through a forum such as this - almost an inquisition - where she would have to tell her story in front of six different people, is frankly abusive. It's truly idiotic."

Dr McCarthy also said that it was impractical to physically get six doctors together to assess a woman seeking an abortion.

The threat of suicide as grounds for abortion is a hugely contentious issue and is causing difficulties within Fine Gael, with many TDs deeply uncomfortable about it.

The Cabinet was expected to discuss draft legislation on abortion tomorrow, but it is now unclear if it will go to ministers this week. One Labour source said: "I'd be surprised if it made it this week."

It was reported that Fine Gael's draft abortion bill would force suicidal women to be assessed by a panel of six doctors before being given a termination.

The legislation drawn up by Health Minister James Reilly is understood to propose a panel of two obstetricians and four psychiatrists – one of whom must be a perinatal psychiatrist – to assess women seeking abortions on the grounds of "suicide ideation".

Patricia Casey, Professor of Psychiatry at University College Dublin, said the notion of an interview panel was "outrageous and harebrained".

"The real problem here is that there is no evidence that abortion is a medical treatment for suicidality in pregnancy. The Government needs to accept that the X case is untenable as a basis for legislation in relation to the treatment of suicidality," she said.

"Psychiatrists have been dragged into this debate because of an understandable anxiety on the part of Fine Gael that a threat of suicide as a ground for abortion will lead to widespread abortion.

"The emotional and mental well-being of women has been sidelined in the reported disagreements between Fine Gael and Labour over the make-up of review panels.

"The political manoeuvring that is happening at present has nothing to do with protecting women's lives and mental health, or for that matter with evidence-based psychiatry. "

Prof Casey said senior coalition party Fine Gael should not have agreed to legislate for abortion.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News