Assessment of suicide risk could cause 'unnecessary delay'

Hearing told two rather than three doctors should examine pregnant woman

Medical Council president Kieran Murphy. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Medical Council president Kieran Murphy. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Fri, May 17, 2013, 14:01

Imposing a requirement for three doctors to determine whether a pregnant woman was suicidal might cause unnecessary delay, Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) president Dr Matthew Sadlier said today.

He added that it was in excess of the of the maximum of two doctors recommended by the expert group.

Obstetricians should not be required to certify risk of loss of the pregnant womans life by way of self-destruction, Dr Sadlier added. This should be done by two psychiatrists in consultation with the woman’s GP.

He said that the term reasonable opinion should be replaced by the term opinion and the term unborn should be replaced by the medical term foetus.

Dr Sadlier was addressing the cross-party Oireachtas health committee hearing into the heads of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013, which, if enacted, will legalise abortion where there is a substantial risk to the mother’s life, including the threat of suicide.

Medical Council president Prof Kieran Murphy told the hearing a pregnant woman dissatisfied with a decision on termination under the abortion legislation should be able to appeal to the High Court or seek a judicial review.

Prof Murphy also said the grounds for termination should be the same as those for risk to life from physical illness and self-destruction.

In circumstances where the pregnant womans capacity to consent is, or may be, impaired, the council believes it is not clear from the draft heads how a decision will be made and how the women will be enabled and supported to participate in the decision, he added.

Prof Murphy said the opinions of all registered medical practitioners, certifying a procedure ending unborn life, must be recorded in writing.