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Saturday 23 March 2019

Abortions: Bishops hit out over ads for doctors at hospital

Concerns: Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, of the Waterford and Lismore diocese, and Archbishop Michael Neary, from Tuam, at the Bishops Conference. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Concerns: Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, of the Waterford and Lismore diocese, and Archbishop Michael Neary, from Tuam, at the Bishops Conference. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Sarah MacDonald

Catholic bishops have accused Holles Street National Maternity Hospital of undermining doctors' freedom of conscience not to perform abortions.

The hospital recently advertised to fill two consultant posts. However it said only doctors who are willing to perform elective abortions will be considered for the roles.

The bishops have been holding their spring general meeting in Maynooth this week and last night issued a statement in which they accused Holles Street of undermining "the whole concept of freedom of conscience which was guaranteed in the recent legislation".

The ads were for two consultant posts - one in obstetrics/gynaecology and the other in anaesthesia.

Expressing concern over a doctor's constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience, the hierarchy said the hospital's precondition ran totally counter to those rights.

"A doctor who is eminently qualified to work as a consultant in these fields is denied employment in these roles because of his/her conscience," they said.

The bishops said doctors who are pro-life and who may have spent more than a decade training in these areas and who may otherwise be the best candidate for these positions, are now being told that if they apply, they won't be considered. The bishops claimed that the entire training and recruitment of doctors to work in these positions in hospitals in Ireland had been "greatly undermined" by the advertisements.

However, a spokesman for the National Maternity Hospital yesterday told the Irish Independent: "The conscientious objection guidelines for staff in both hospitals remain unchanged."

He said that the posts advertised were additional posts and were being funded from a specific financial allocation from the HSE to the hospital for "the very specific purpose of providing termination of pregnancy services".

"They are, therefore, for individuals willing to contribute to the provision of these services. Other past and future posts are not affected," he maintained.

The Irish Independent understands that these particular consultant roles will be shared between Holles Street and St Vincent's Hospital.

However, the successful candidates will not have to perform any elective abortions in St Vincent's.

Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin is chairman of the board of the National Maternity Hospital but has not attended a board meeting since he became Archbishop in 2004.

He has written to past health ministers asking to be removed from his role as chair of the board.

He has also stated in the past that Holles Street is not a Catholic hospital.

The Catholic bishops' 'Code of Ethical Standards for Healthcare' states that there "may be specific procedures which a Catholic healthcare facility cannot provide, by virtue of its ethos".

These include any form of artificial contraception, provision of the morning after pill, any form of assisted fertility treatment, surrogacy, abortion, referral for abortion, sterilisation and gender reassignment surgery.

Irish Independent

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