Monday, November 28, 2011

Spurious survey findings on Irish GP's attitudes to abortion

The Irish Times on Nov 25th reported on a survey of GP’s attitudes to abortion, which was carried out by a County Sligo junior doctor.  The report says that the survey findings show that a majority of Irish doctors support legalization of abortion in Ireland.
The study according to the Irish Times report was carried out by Dr Mark Murphy, a GP with the Sligo General Practice Training Scheme and was based on a postal/e-mail survey of randomly chosen family doctors,
The results of the survey are suspect for a number of reasons, first the questionnaire used in the survey appears to have been flawed in that it fails to make an adequate distinction between a necessary medical intervention, which unintentionally causes the death of a baby, on one hand and an induced abortion on the other hand.
Secondly the report also gives the impression that 750 family doctors including some doctors in training responded to the survey, however it appears that considerably less than half of those invited to do so actually responded to the survey.  It is understood that as few as 324 actually responded, hardly a statistically significant result.
The survey also claims that 42 per cent of GPs feel that a woman’s healthcare suffers “as a result of the requirement to travel for an abortion which is described as a termination of pregnancy or “ToP”, Significantly Dr Murphy did not ask  any questions about possible adverse physical or psychological effects of abortion.

Dr Murphy previously sparked controversy last May at the Irish Medical Organisation AGM when he cited the discredited 18th century advocate of population control, Thomas Malthus, in support of a motion calling on Irish Aid to promote population control in developing countries. See this link. The motion was defeated amid accusations that it was "arrogant" and "racist".