Treatment should be based on medical evidence not ‘political considerations’

Psychiatrist says Creighton clinical pathway programme in line with current practice

Psychiatrists opposed to the suicide clause in the abortion legislation have appealed to wavering TDs and to Ministers to look at the “evidence-based” research.

At a press conference in Dublin yesterday three psychiatrists voiced their support for a proposed amendment, by Minister of State Lucinda Creighton, to the clause in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, to provide a treatment programme instead.

Ms Creighton proposed a "care pathway" for women presenting as suicidal, including focused therapy at home, if they were still expressing suicidal thoughts after a number of assessments.

Medical evidence
Donegal-based psychiatrist Dr Eleanor Corcoran said treatment "should be based on medical evidence and not on political considerations".

“Minister Creighton’s amendment is consistent with all the evidence that we have from international research of what is effective from women who are in a very vulnerable state and who are suffering with depression,” she said. “We would hope that the other TDs and Ministers would look at what’s in the best interests of women and look at the scientific research.”


Dr Bernie McCabe of the HSE Louth-Meath mental health service said: “Our concern is about the lack of consideration of evidence in relation to the development of this legislation.”

She said the Minister’s proposed amendment was largely in line with recommendations by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and in accordance with best practice.

“The clinical care pathway is largely in line with what is going on in the country anyway as instituted by the Government through the HSE,” she said.

Dr Amir Niazi, also of the HSE Louth-Meath mental health service, said it was working on three clinical care programmes nationally.

“One of them is on treatment of deliberate self-harm and suicide. Lots of resources have been put into these programmes. We have developed clinical programmes to see how we can treat these people.

“Lots of resources have gone into it. I think this clinical care pathway is very similar to what we are trying to do in these . . . programmes.”

Dr McCabe, who participated at the Oireachtas health committee hearings, said: “We’re obliged to practise evidence-based psychiatry. This proposal will allow us to do that and we’re happy that somebody has bothered to look and hear what we have had to say and our concerns about the non-evidence-based suggestion that is there at the moment and has put another more suitable, relevant, appropriate, more caring option on the table for women.”

The three psychiatrists said none of them had consulted Ms Creighton on her proposals but Dr Corcoran said she had written a letter to the Minister of State and to all TDs about her concerns on suicide.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times