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Row flares on radio as professor accuses colleague of 'farce' survey

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Prof Patricia Casey

Prof Patricia Casey

Prof Patricia Casey

A MAJOR row has erupted over a survey which reported that more than 100 psychiatrists oppose abortion based on the threat of suicide.

Veronica O'Kane, professor of psychiatry at UCD, accused her university colleague Patricia Casey of bias and described her survey as "anti-scientific" and "an absolute farce".

Prof Casey last month published a survey claiming that 113 psychiatrists were concerned that allowing for abortion as a treatment for the threat of suicide had no basis in medical evidence.

The row erupted yesterday when both women appeared on RTE radio's 'Today With Pat Kenny' to discuss proposed abortion legislation.

Pro-choice Prof O'Kane claimed that Prof Casey, who is a patron of the Catholic anti-abortion Iona Institute, had not followed College of Psychiatry guidelines for the survey.

"This was a survey that was conducted by a biased group," she said. "The survey was incomprehensible. That's why the majority of people didn't respond to it.

"It is not peer reviewed, it's not science and it is not a valid survey," Prof O'Kane said.

At one point Prof Casey threatened to walk out of the studio.

"There's no point in me staying in this studio if I can't answer these questions," she said, adding that she was being interrupted.

Prof Casey said that she did not claim that the survey complied with university guidelines, but insisted that it was valid.

She was defended by her Iona Institute colleague David Quinn who said that no one forced the doctors to respond to the survey.

There are around 350 psychiatrists in the country and 302 were contacted. Only around 30pc of those contacted responded. Almost 90pc of respondents agreed with the statement opposing abortion on suicide grounds.

Irish Independent