Master of Rotunda: Doctors' hands tied by 8th Amendment; five former chairs refute his comments

The Master of the Rotunda Hospital has said doctors' hands are tied by the Eighth Amendment despite five former chairmen of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists refuting similar suggestions as "a serious misrepresentation of the Irish maternal health system".

Professor Fergal Malone says many doctors delay acting to help a pregnant woman who may need an abortion, because of uncertainty about the law.

Professor Fergal Malone says the Eighth Amendment needs to be repealed.

"At the moment our hands are very much tied," said Professor Malone. "We do have to wait until there is a real and substantial risk, not to her health, but to her life. And that ties our hands."

Prof Malone's comments conflict with others from five former chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recently, who described such claims as "simply not true and are nothing less than a serious misrepresentation of the Irish maternal health system."

In an open letter Prof John Bonnar, Dr Eamon McGuinness, Dr Conor Carr, Dr James Clinch, Dr Michael O’Hare said such "appalling" claims were " deeply regrettable" because they were aimed at "engaging in a campaign to raise unnecessary fears for maternal health in the electorate".

They went on: "The Eighth Amendment does not prevent Irish women receiving care of the highest possible standard. This is why our maternal death rate is so low. Recent Maternal Death Enquiry reports confirm that Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to be pregnant.

"Not one of our colleagues should ever be permitted to use the Eighth Amendment as an excuse for not treating a woman.

"Each one of us can stand over the care we have provided in our careers. Four of us who practised in this jurisdiction have carried out necessary surgery which resulted in termination of pregnancy in order to save and protect Irish women.

"We had no difficulty in so doing, and the Eighth Amendment did not prevent us from performing an ethical and medically indicated procedure.

"On May 25th, Irish people will be asked to vote on whether the right to life of an unborn baby should be withdrawn. If the answer is Yes, it is the stated intention of government to introduce legislation to enable ending the life of a perfectly healthy growing baby, in a perfectly healthy pregnant woman. That is a matter of conscience for each voter."

- Digital Desk

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