Obstetricians to decide on response at meeting next week


Medical response:The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is to meet next week to decide a formal response to the report of the expert group on abortion.

The institute advised its members not to comment on the report yesterday in advance of an agreed position to be reached next week, one leading obstetrician said last night. A spokeswoman could not be contacted last night.

Privately, obstetricians who spoke to The Irish Times were muted in their reaction. One described it as “a good first step” but pointed out that the terms of reference of the report, which focus on the ABC case, were extremely limited. Another consultant said the report, because of its narrow terms, didn’t really address the issues around terminations of pregnancy, for example in the case of severe foetal abnormalities. He criticised the references in the report to the threat of suicide as a ground for termination, saying this could result in a “tsunami” of such threats which couldn’t be properly assessed because of a lack of resources.

Psychiatrist Dr Siobhán Barry said that an assessment of a woman for suicide risk would typically look at how she previously dealt with life’s reversals. Any suggestion that a woman would think of ending her life “out of the blue” because of an unwanted pregnancy was misplaced, she said.

“The risk is being portrayed as overwhelming or of sudden onset when clearly the person involved will generally have a track record,” she said.

In over five years’ practice in the UK, Dr Barry never once saw a case of a woman who had terminated her pregnancy on the basis that she wasn’t able to cope, she said. Later, when working at the Coombe for 12 years, she said she saw “very few” women in a state of suicidal crisis.