Obstetricians to agree principles if Eighth Amendment repealed

Extraordinary general meeting ‘very constructive’, says Institute of Obstetricians

Obstetricians and gynaecologists have agreed to establish principles of safe practice that will “underpin safe care for women” in the event of the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the constitution in next month’s referendum.

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists held an extraordinary general meeting on Friday.

In a short statement after the event, it said the members had a “very constructive meeting today”.

“It was agreed that they will establish principles of safe practice that will underpin safe care for women in the event of repeal of the Eighth Amendment.”

Dr Peter Boylan, chair of the institute and a former master of the National Maternity Hospital, said the 50-60 members present had discussed what they would do in the event that the amendment is repealed.

He said it was important the doctors draw up principles and practices so that if the amendment is repealed and legislation subsequently passed, they were ready to implement safe care for women.

“We know what the proposed legislation is but we don’t know what would actually happen, so obviously it would all be completely irrelevant if the Eighth isn’t repealed,” Dr Boylan said.

He said if the amendment was repealed, the Oireachtas would then have to sit down and pass legislation, which might not be entirely what the Government was proposing.

“But we are going to work on the basis that it will be what they are proposing, so we will have to look at international best practice and develop proper clinical practices and look at the implications for infrastructure, staffing, working with GPs, patient representatives and so on.”

Single motion

Dr John Monaghan, an obstetrician based in Ballinasloe who is opposed to the repeal of the amendment, said the meeting had discussed the single motion only, in relation to the preparation of a position paper based on "medical facts and service implications". This would be prepared by the membership in the coming weeks.

He said it had not really “been allowed” at the meeting that people discuss their own position on the substantive issue of whether or not the amendment should be repealed.

But he said the point had been made that the membership of the institute in general had not had an opportunity to discuss the referendum question itself.

“That was not accepted in the context of an extraordinary general meeting that was called by obstetricians from the Coombe Hospital,” he said.

Dr Monaghan said that during the discussion he had made a point he had previously made, that Dr Boylan should have stood aside from his role as chair of the institute if he was going to take one side in the debate.

Dr Monaghan, who is aligned with the Medical Alliance for the Eighth group, said at the launch of the Save the 8th campaign last month he had delivered between 4,000 and 5,000 babies during his career and had never been prevented from protecting a woman’s life because of article 40.3.3.

In a brief statement when it announced its support last month for the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment favouring repeal, the institute said it “looks forward to continuing to assist in informing legislation to enhance women’s health and safety”.

Dr Boylan said earlier this week that 19 of the executive’s approximately 25 members attended the executive meeting at which the decision was made to support repeal of the amendment.

“Everybody voted in favour of the institute being in favour of repeal. There was one abstention but nobody voted against it,” he said.

He pointed out that all 19 maternity units across the State are represented on the executive of the institute, which has about 200 members.