Dr Rhona Mahony says 8th amendment 'distorts clinical judgement'

The Master of the National Maternity Hospital warns that medical decisions are "being made in a criminal context"

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Dr Rhona Mahony. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

13:02 21 Dec 2017 Stephen McNeice 13:02 Thursday 21 December 2017

The Master of the National Maternity Hospital has blamed the 8th amendment for distorting clinical judgements.

Dr Rhona Mahony says she is still reviewing the report of the Oireachtas Committee, which was published yesterday.

The committee recommends unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks into pregnancy, and to allow abortion in the cases of fatal foetal abnormality without any term restrictions.

The report will be considered by TDs & senators early next year, with the Government planning to hold a referendum on abortion in May or June.

Dr Mahony, meanwhile, says the current criminal consequences are not helping.

She observed: "The issues really are quite medical - we are looking at a requirement for us to determine that a woman is at risk of dying, and that decision is made in a criminal context.

"It's under the shadow of a custodial sentence of 14 years... and I do believe that distorts clinical judgement."

She added: "The next issue then is in decision to very severe foetal anomaly, where we understand a baby is going to live for a very short time, not live at all, or have very profound adverse outcomes.

"When we look at those cases, we understand that families will navigate this in a very different way. Some families will choose to continue a pregnancy knowing what will be, but some families will be in a circumstance where they feel it is impossible for them. But they travel to a different jurisdiction.

"You're making a complex clinical decision in one jurisdiction in a criminal context."

She acknowledged that there will be many different opinions when it comes to the issue of the 8th amendment.

However, she argued: "My contribution is based on my experience of medical care - and at the end of the day, for me, the presence of the 8th amendment in our Constitution prevents any other legislation. And that creates unacceptable clinical risk."

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