Pregnancy terminations in Irish hospitals for decades - consultant

‘I have been part of a grand collusion’ that has existed between public, church and State

Former master of the Coombe Dr Chris Fitzpatrick: “I have direct experience of terminating pregnancies in order to save the life of the mother.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Former master of the Coombe Dr Chris Fitzpatrick: “I have direct experience of terminating pregnancies in order to save the life of the mother.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

One of Ireland’s leading obstetricians has said the termination of pregnancies to save the mother had been taking place in maternity hospitals across the State long before the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was passed in 2013.

Former master of the Coombe Prof Chris Fitzpatrick said that “having worked as a consultant for over 20 years in Ireland, I have direct experience of terminating pregnancies in order to save the life of the mother. These interventions have taken place in Irish maternity units long before the recent legislation – in accordance with ethical clinical practice.”

Last Thursday, Prof Fitzpatrick resigned from the project board planning the new national maternity hospital (NMH) to be located at the St Vincent’s campus in south Dublin, in support of former NMH master Dr Peter Boylan’s stance against moving the hospital to the site which is owned by the Sisters of Charity.

In an article for The Irish Times, Prof Fitzpatrick said, “as for women requesting abortion for other reasons, I like everyone else, have left it to the airlines, ferries and the UK’s NHS and private clinics to deal with this”.

‘Uncomfortable listening’

He recalled how at a medical conference this year, “I happened to meet an English obstetrician who takes care of a lot of Irish women who travel to the UK for termination of pregnancy. This doctor is a highly compassionate clinician. Her experience of looking after distressed Irish women arriving in her hospital made for uncomfortable listening – as were her reactions when I tried to explain the reasons for this well-trodden pathway.

“Like many, I have been part of a grand collusion that has existed between the general public, church and State for the provision of educational, healthcare and other essential public services, and, as such, bear my share of responsibility for the decisions that we have made – and the ones that we have avoided.

“The demographic make-up of this country has changed beyond belief in recent years. Ireland is a different country than it was and this needs to be reflected in our public services and institutions – including in our schools and hospitals.

“At the commencement of the 21st century, I believe the time has come to start unpicking the outmoded relationships that exist between church and State, between private and public morality – relationships that are no longer fit for purpose in a modern, secular, pluralist and compassionate European republic.”