Thursday 18 January 2018

Suicide risk led to three abortions last year

Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Obstetricians and psychiatrists have yet to undergo training courses on how to operate the new abortion law despite 26 pregnancies being terminated last year.

Some 23 pregnancies were ended due to the risk to the life of the mother from physical illness with nine of these done in an emergency. Three pregnancies were ended because the pregnant woman was at risk of suicide.

One request for an abortion due to physical illness was turned down, according to the first annual report on the workings of the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act published by Health Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday.

The Institute of Obstetricians said while training for doctors on the law had taken place in some individual hospitals a specific programme would not be in place until the autumn. Dr John Hillery of the College of Psychiatrists said the training for psychiatrists would also be starting in the autumn.

The report gives no information on which hospitals carried out the terminations or what the physical illness involved. It is understood that one of the three cases involving risk of suicide concerned the young asylum seeker known as Miss Y whose case made headlines last year.

It was revealed she had contact with a number of agencies over several months before eventually being referred to a panel of doctors. She had a Caesarean section at 25 weeks and her baby is now in care.

Dr Hillery said it would be helpful to know more about the diagnosis of suicide risk in the three cases. Doctors are currently relying on broad guidelines drawn up by an expert group on the working of the law.

Rotunda master Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said he numbers were "broadly" what was expected.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said it would be up to the next government to decide if it wanted to hold a referendum to widen the Eighth Amendment.

"My own views are that the Eighth Amendment is restrictive and does not take into account the health of the mother.

"Fine Gael has yet to determine its policy," he added.

The Pro Life Campaign said that the loss of even one child's life from abortion was a tragedy.

Irish Independent

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