Is Abortion `Medical Treatment'?


Sir, - That Mr Justice Geoghegan in the High Court should have confirmed the right of a State agency to custody of a child contrary to the parents' wishes is not surprising; his decision follows the thrust of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the European Convention on the exercise of children's rights (1995).

What is surprising - and disturbing - is that the learned judge held that medical procedures involving termination of pregnancy must "constitute medical treatment within any normal definition".

Since when has abortion constituted medical treatment?

Abortion was prohibited by the Hippocratic Oath and in more recent times has been condemned by the World Medical Association in the Declarations of Geneva and Helsinki. Abortion has always been held to be contrary to natural law, and since its establishment the Medical Council has been consistent in declaring abortion to be unethical. Nor is abortion likened to medical treatment in the Supreme Court judgment in the Xcase, with one member of the Court referring to "medical termination of pregnancy" and another to "surgical intervention which has the effect of terminating pregnancy".

When the Medical Council ruled that withholding necessary medical treatment during pregnancy would be unethical, it was careful to exclude abortion.

To one who was a consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist for almost 40 years and a member of the Medical Council for 10 years, equating deliberate killing of the unborn through termination of pregnancy or abortion - call it what you will - with "medical treatment within any normal definition" is deeply disturbing.

Without wishing to be discourteous, is it not time that the judiciary confined its deliberations to the interpretation and application of the law and refrained from involvement in areas in which it lacks competence?

Ex-bench is not ex-cathedra. - Yours, etc.,

Professor emeritus, Lower Taylors Hill, Galway.