Letter ’an attack on my professional opinion’, says obstetrician

Peter Boylan says he resents inference from Savita inquest conclusions he is pro-abortion

Obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan pictured during the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar at Galway Coroners’ Court. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan pictured during the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar at Galway Coroners’ Court. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Thu, May 2, 2013, 06:00

Obstetrician Prof Peter Boylan has described a letter published in The Irish Times today as a “direct attack on my professional opinion”.

Prof Boylan said he was reserving his position to respond in detail to a letter from 11 obstetricians who have taken issue with his conclusions about the Savita Halappanavar case given at the inquest into her death.

The obstetricians include three well-known anti-abortion figures - Prof John Bonnar, Prof Eamon O’Dwyer and Prof John Monaghan.

They say the absence of clarity in relation to the abortion laws in Ireland was not the reason for Ms Halappanavar’s death, as Prof Boylan had suggested.

Instead, they concluded that a diagnosis of chorioamnionitis, inflammation of the foetal membranes due to a bacterial infection, was delayed and information was not acted upon.

They added that obstetric sepsis is on the increase and is now the leading cause of maternal death reported in the UK.

They concluded: “To reduce it to a polemical argument about abortion may lead to more - not fewer - deaths in the future.”

Prof Boylan, who gave expert evidence at Ms Halappanavar’s inquest, said about the letter that he “couldn’t be anticipated to be happy about it”, and resented the inference that he was pro-abortion.

“My agenda is the protection of the lives of women and equal respect for the unborn,” he said. “I take grave exception to people extrapolating from my wish to see women get the best care available to attempt to brand me as something that I’m not, which is pro-abortion.

“I’m as much ’pro-life’ as any obstetrician in this country, but I do recognise there are times when terminations of pregnancy need to be done.”

He praised the Government’s legislation as “very good” and would give the clarity needed.

“We need legislation in order to be able to our job. All this does is meet the requirements set out by the Supreme Court and by the European Court of Human Rights. It is no less or no more than that.

“I’m an obstetrician, not a psychiatrist, but I’m puzzled by what is meant about caring for a woman who is suicidal. I would be grateful if the people who are talking about it should clarify exactly what they mean and how far they are willing to go.

“No legislation on this issue will please everybody. That’s just in the nature of the issue. It’s the same all over the world. There is nothing unique about Ireland in that regard.”