Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Doctor’s right to object to abortions is “not absolute” – Department of Health

The Journal reported Friday August 9th that according to a statement by the Department of Health the rights of medical personnel to object to carrying out abortions must not interfere with the wellbeing of a patient.

The Journal article continues:
This week a member of the board of the Mater Hospital, Fr Kevin Doran, said that the hospital “can’t carry out abortions because it goes against our ethos”.  He was echoed by fellow board member, and a nurse tutor at the hospital, Sr Eugene Nolan.

Sr Nolan said that the situation facing the hospital was “very, very grave”. The Mater is listed as one of 25 appropriate institutions named in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act where abortions may be carried out in order to save the lives of pregnant women.

‘No provision for institutional objection’

Yesterday, there was a suggestion that the Mater may be able to refuse to carry out a termination due a late removal of a line in the act that stated no institution could refuse to carry out a termination.

That, however was denied by a Department of Health spokesperson who spoke to today.

“The Act does not provide for conscientious objection by institutions.

“Section 17 of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 clarifies that professional health personnel (medical and nursing personnel) with a conscientious objection will not be obliged to carry out or assist in carrying out lawful terminations of pregnancy, unless the risk to the life of the pregnant woman is immediate, i.e. in an emergency situation.

However, an individual’s right to conscientious objection is not absolute and must be balanced against the patient’s competing rights, particularly the right to life in the case of a medical emergency.

“In such cases where a doctor or other health professional has a conscientious objection to undertaking a required medical procedure, he or she will have a duty to ensure that another colleague takes over the care of the patient as per current medical ethics,” said the spokesperson.

“These provisions make it clear that this right is limited to persons involved in the delivery of the treatment only.”