Doctor doubtful over referrals in cases of conscientious objection

A leading pro-life campaigner, who is also a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, is fearful that the right to conscientious objection to abortion, yet to be clarified by the Government, may not be allowed in the future

John Monaghan said doctors who believe it is wrong to terminate a pregnancy should not be compelled to refer the patient to another doctor who would perform the act.

Dr Monaghan said doctors should not carry out abortions where it is not medically indicated.

“It is not healthcare. The fact that people choose to use abortion pills does not of itself make that right,” he said on RTÉ radio yesterday.

Dr Monaghan said it might well be that GPs do not have an opportunity to fully think through what is going to happen if the Government’s proposal on abortion is accepted.

Mark Murphy, a GP and a member of Doctors for Choice, said he agrees with the right to conscientious objection.

“If someone disagrees with abortion and does not want to get involved or just prescribe pills, I agree that they don’t have to do that,” he said.

Dr Monaghan said he could not imagine a situation where he would refuse to refer a woman who needs a termination for medical reasons to another practitioner who would perform the procedure.

“But to oblige a doctor to refer a perfectly healthy woman with a normal pregnancy to another doctor who would provide an abortion to me is ethically repugnant. And I could not do it,” he said.

He said the Medical Council guidelines do not take account of the termination of a normal pregnancy.

Dr Murphy said he feels they are talking in a vacuum and that the Medical Council will have to update its guidelines based on any new legislation that follows the potential repeal of the Eighth amendment. A conscientious objection would be provided for, he said.

Dr Monaghan said he spent three years working in the public health system in Britain and his unwillingness to get involved in abortion was respected then but there has been an attempt to undo that recently.

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