Doctors' role is to heal - not cause death through abortion, warns bishop
The role of doctors and nurses is to heal and care for patients, and not to bring about their death through procedures such as abortion, Bishop Kevin Doran warned.
Dr Doran, who is chair of the Bishops' Group on Bioethics and Life, stressed that the role of a healthcare professional never includes "intentionally bringing about the death of the patient, either by some action or by failing to act".
He said it would be helpful if the healthcare sector explored the difference between accepting death and causing death.
Doctors and nurses, he noted, are given a unique access to the human body for the express purpose of preventing and healing illness and to provide care for those who cannot be healed.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Bishop Doran asked why it is assumed that medical staff whose whole focus in life is healthcare should be prepared to take life through abortion.
"There is nothing in the ethos of healthcare that would remotely suggest that doctors or nurses should be involved in killing," he said.
He was speaking at a conference on abortion, the law and disability, which the Irish Bishops jointly hosted with the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in the UK.
Dr Doran resigned from the board of the Mater Hospital in Dublin in 2013 after it confirmed it would comply with the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, which allows for limited abortion.
Questioning the use of prenatal diagnosis, he warned that it was increasingly being used as a means of "screening out babies who, in the eyes of adults, should not be brought to birth".
"Unborn children are people too; so why would unborn children with disability be discriminated against by someone making a decision that they shouldn't live?" he asked the Irish Independent.
Other speakers at the conference included psychiatrist Professor Patricia Casey, who questioned the claim that abortion does not harm a woman's mental health.
Tracy Harkin of support group Every Life Counts spoke about how best care can be achieved for parents who are given a poor prenatal diagnosis for their child.
Trinity College Dublin Professor of Law, Gerry Whyte, warned that a decision to delete the Eighth Amendment could lead to a situation where the hands of the Oireachtas and the judiciary were tied, when it came to the question of protecting foetal life.