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Friday 15 December 2017

Bitter feud among psychiatrists over submissions to Oireachtas committee

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

A BITTER behind-the-scenes row has erupted among psychiatrists who have opposing views on the inclusion of suicide as grounds for abortion in the new legislation.

The College of Psychiatrists, which represents the doctors, has been called on to convene an emergency general meeting to discuss its submission to the Oireachtas committee hearings on abortion during which it supported the legislation.

However, a group of psychiatrists, including the Mater Hospital's Prof Patricia Casey, want an early EGM, saying the college failed to take into account the views of all its members.

The college's submission was not made available to members in advance of the hearings, said the group of angry psychiatrists.

In a letter to members, the opposing psychiatrists said the submission presented at the oral hearings made no mention of the concerns of the 34 members who responded to the call for views. Instead, it supported the legislation, saying abortion may be necessary in rare cases.

"It did not refer to the lack of evidence for this position or for the proposition that abortion was now being regarded as a treatment for those who are suicidal," the group said.


The row has now escalated because the college says it cannot hold the EGM until September, a move which Prof Casey says is undemocratic.

The college emailed all 864 members in advance of the Oireachtas committee hearings and received 34 responses. But following a meeting of its council "a unanimous submission" was made.

The letter said that the EGM is necessary because the college "failed to communicate in a timely way and obtain the views of the members on the proposed legislation".

It refused "on spurious grounds" to make its Oireachtas committee submission available to members in advance of the hearings despite two written requests, the group said.

It also "incorrectly dismissed the role of evidence-based practice at the hearings and presented "the submission as representing the official college position and therefore the agreed views of the members.

"As practising psychiatrists we are deeply concerned at the Government's stated plan to legislate along the lines of the X Case, as this will mean legislating for suicidality."

Irish Independent

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