Ex-chairs of institute ‘horrified’ by claims about maternal care in Ireland

Five of Ireland’s most senior obstetricians and gynaecologists say they are “horrified” by comments made by their colleagues about maternal care in Ireland.

The former chairmen of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists say comments made recently by Rhona Mahony and Peter Boylan are a serious misrepresentation of the Irish maternal health system and must be withdrawn.

Dr Mahony, who is master of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, is featured in the Together for Yes campaign video during which she states: “In Ireland today, we play medical roulette with women’s lives.”

Dr Boylan, consultant obstetrician and former master of the National Maternity Hospital, appears in the same video and claims the Eight Amendment “makes it difficult for us to treat women with compassion and give them the proper care that they need”.

Colleagues who signed an open letter on the matter addressed to the “Irish public” include Dr Michael O’Hare, the current chairman of the HSE working group on maternal mortality. The letter is also signed by Professor John Bonnar, Dr Eamon McGuinness, Dr Conor Carr, and Dr James Clinch.

The medical experts point out that each of them has extensive experience of around 40 years in the speciality of obstetrics and gynaecology.

In their “privileged position” as former chairs of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, they had fought to improve the standards of care for mothers and their newborn babies.

“Ireland is a very safe country in which to be pregnant,” they state.

“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.”

They refer to recent maternal death inquiry reports confirming 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,” they say.

They state that each one of them can stand over the care they have provided over their careers.

“Four of us who practised in this jurisdiction have carried out necessary surgery which resulted in the termination of pregnancy in order to save and protect Irish women,” they state.

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

Noting that the electorate will be asked on May 25 to vote on whether the right to life of an unborn baby should be withdrawn, they say if the answer is yes, it is the stated intention of the Government to introduce legislation to enable the ending of life of a perfectly healthy, growing baby in a perfectly healthy, pregnant woman.

“That is a matter of conscience for each voter,” they say.

“However, what the referendum is not about and has never been about is maternal healthcare.

“That some campaigners have chosen to engage in a campaign to raise unnecessary fears for maternal health in the electorate is deeply regrettable.”

Commenting on the letter, Save the 8th campaign chairwoman Niamh Uí Bhriain said it was a very significant intervention in the debate from five of Ireland’s most senior obstetricians.


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