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Abortion is 'not effective for any mental illness'

Experts can't predict suicide, says top hospital

Abortion is not an effective treatment for any mental health disorder, according to the heads of Ireland's leading psychiatric hospital.

In a written submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, obtained by the Sunday Independent, the heads of St Patrick's University Hospital in Dublin have said there is no evidence that "medical experts are able to predict suicide".

The hard-hitting submission written by Paul Gilligan, CEO of St Patrick's and medical director Professor James Lucey, emphatically states that there is no evidence that abortion is the most effective treatment for those who are mentally distressed.

According to the submission, the pair strongly argue that medical professionals are not able to diagnose whether someone is suicidal or not and said there is no evidence to support a case that they can.

"Mental health professionals are not able to predict suicide and there is no test or clinical assessment which is either valid or reliable in this area," they wrote.

Mr Gilligan and Prof Lucey went further to say there is "no evidence either in literature or from the work of St Patrick's University Hospital that indicates that termination of pregnancy is an effective treatment for any mental health disorder or difficulty".

Every year 5,000 women have to travel to the UK from Ireland for abortions and Mr Gilligan and Prof Lucey said they hoped not to cause upset to anyone who is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.

"Nothing in this submission is intended to cause pain or distress to those grappling with unwanted pregnancy or termination of pregnancy," they wrote.

The submission, which was sent to chairman of the Oireachtas Health Committee Jerry Buttimer two weeks ago, will be seen as significant by those within Fine Gael who are opposed to any liberalisation of abortion.

Despite their strong views, Mr Gilligan and Prof Lucey said St Patrick's Hospital "appreciates the Government has decided to give effect to the law as so stated having regard to the report of the Expert Group following on the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in A,B,C vs Ireland."

They added "the hospital wishes to make clear its view as to the clinical mental health issues that appear to arise. Mental health services and mental health professionals must always provide person-centred, human rights-based compassionate and professional services to all those experiencing mental health difficulties."

The views espoused by St Patrick's Hospital are at odds with testimony heard at the recent committee hearings from Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital.

She called for legislation to protect medical professionals doing their jobs and appealed for the repeal of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act which criminalises abortion.

"That law stands today and I need to know that I will not go to jail if in good faith I believe it is the right thing to save a woman's life to terminate a pregnancy. I want to know that I will not go to jail and I want to know, by the way, that she will not go to jail," she said.

Sunday Independent