Friday 19 October 2018

Ronan Mullen's claims 'at odds' with facts presented to Oireachtas abortion committee - Professor Peter Boylan claims

Dr Peter Boylan. Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins
Dr Peter Boylan. Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins

Shona Murray

The former Master of Holles Street Hospital, Professor Peter Boylan has written to the Oireachtas Committee on the Eight Amendment to correct the record in relation to “assertions” made by Senator Ronan Mullen.

Professor Boylan says Senator Mullen has made claims which are “at odds” with the facts presented during the professor’s testimony last week.

Professor Boylan was one of several expert witnesses called to give evidence to the committee on Ireland’s Eight Amendment. He discussed the impact the legislation has on clinicians in Irish hospitals.

In his letter read in to the public record today, Professor Boylan says Senator Mullen was “absent” for much of the committee business, but then went on “at least two radio shows” during which he repeated “inaccurate” claims in relation to the evidence presented by Professor Boylan.

In particular, Mr Mullen “repeatedly claimed” that the consultant treating Savita Halappanava in Galway University Hospital where she died of sepsis, was “in no way constrained by the Eight Amendment”.

Professor Boylan said such a statement is in “direct contradiction” of the evidence given by he and Professor Arulkumaran both of whom “forensically” reviewed Ms. Halappanavar’s notes and investigated her death.

Senator Ronan Mullen
Senator Ronan Mullen

Read More: 'Any criticisms of me would not be in good faith' - Ronan Mullen responds to backlash over Savita Halappanavar comments

Professor Arulkumaran who also gave evidence to the Oireachtas Committee last week, interviewed those involved Ms. Halappanavar’s care at Galway Hospital.

Mr Boylan included in his letter transcripts of the third day of the inquest into Ms. Halappanavar’s death in which he says it is “absolutely apparent” that Dr. Astbury, her treating consultant “could not have been clearer” about how the Eight Amendment prevented her from “intervening” to save the life of Savita.

Professor Boylan said last week that Savita Halappanvar "died as a consequence of the Eight Amendment."

The transcript shows a question to Dr. Astbury during the investigation where she is asked: “did you feel in any way constrained or inhibited by Irish law in terms of the treatment you could afford Savita?

Her response: “Yes, because termination of pregnancy which is what she was requesting was not legal in the context in which she requested it.”

Read More: Psychiatrist Patricia Casey pulls out of appearing at 'deeply imbalanced' Oireachtas abortion committee

Professor Boylan added that such a point is “so fundamental” to the hearings of the committee that the record should be corrected in respect of Senator Mullen’s inaccurate assertions.

Senator Mullen responded to Professor Boylan's complaint saying: “I said at the Committee that the doctors involved in that [Savita Halappanavar] case “did not claim that it was down to the law in Ireland but that it was down to the mismanagement of a situation”.

"My view is that the doctors involved in that tragic case did not try to blame the law in Ireland for what happened to Savita, but rather that they acknowledged the medical mismanagement of her sepsis.”

Savita Halappanavar
Savita Halappanavar

“I have been critical, and remain so, of campaigners who try to exploit Savita’s death to bring about the legalisation of abortion, when it has always been the case that any life-saving treatment a mother needs, including treatment that brings her pregnancy to an end, is legal and is routine practice.”

In a statement today, Senator Mullen went on to address allegations comments he made on RTE's Sean O’Rourke last Thursday. He said his point was, that claims that Savita would have been alive but for the Eighth Amendment are "misleading."

The pro-life Senator also clarified another issue in relation to his radio interview where he was heavily criticised for comments he made in relation to the death of Ms. Halappanavar.

He said: "if there was abortion on demand she wouldn’t have been in the hospital because she wouldn’t have been pregnant and she wouldn’t have been having a miscarriage.”

Ms. Halappanavar died of sepsis when she miscarried her 17-week pregnancy. She requested an abortion after it was found that her pregnancy would not be viable and she would inevitably miscarry.

Doctors refused to remove the contents of her womb in spite of her infection because there was a foetal heartbeat

“I acknowledge that one sentence used by me in the Sean O’Rourke interview could be reworded to more accurately express my meaning. But my meaning was clear anyway, both in the full context of that interview and in later radio interviews”, said Senator Mullen.

The committee is holding three sessions this afternoon where it is dealing with suicidal ideation and the risks of Irish legislation on women’s mental health.

It will also deal with the issues that may arise in the case of Ireland’s abortion legislation being altered in restricted situations such as rape or incest only.

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