Sunday 25 February 2018

Abortion not ‘suitable treatment for suicidal mothers’ – Rotunda Master

Alan O’Keeffe

THE Master of Rotunda Maternity Hospital said he believes that abortion is not a suitable treatment for mothers who are suicidal.

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said he has seen no evidence that suggested that termination of a pregnancy was appropriate for women who were suicidal or who had suicidal ideas.

And he said that the proposed abortion legislation would cause “real difficulty” for obstetricians and psychiatrists, he warned.

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland today, he said the Bill did provide welcome re-assurances for  doctors faced with physical problems such as cancer where they can bring about a termination to help save the life of the mother.

But he found significant problems with a certain part of the Preotection of Life in Pregnancy Bill.

“The problem arises in the third section (of the legislation) where it looks at suicide or suicidal intent and I think many, many obstetricians and many psychiatrists believe that termination of pregnancy is not a treatment for suicidal ideation,” he said.

“There’s no evidence to suggest that that is the case.

“As doctors we must practice evidence based medicine so if there’s no evidence for something then clearly we have an issue in the legislation.”

Dr Coulter-Smith is the first high profile obstetrician to speak out about this particular clause.

Master of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dr Rhona Mahony said that there should be no distinction between the risk of death to a pregnant woman posed by a physical illness or the threat of suicide.

“Suicide is death just the same as death from infection chorioamnionitis,” she said earlier.

“Women are dead.”

And Dr Mahony said that she was not prepared to risk any woman taking her own life due to an unwanted pregnancy.

“Are we all absolutely certain that when a woman who does not want to be pregnant, who is so distressed by her pregnancy, that she tells us that she wants to kill herself - can we all sit her and say I’m absolutely certain she will not kill herself?” she said.

“I’m not.”

The so-called ‘suicide clause’ within the Bill has already created problems within Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and for a number of independents.

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