Abortion legislation: Rhona Mahony speaks of 'medical roulette' faced by doctors

Maternity hospital master says medical decisions should not have to be made in criminal context

Abortion legislation: Rhona Mahony speaks of 'medical roulette' faced by doctors

Dr Rhona Mahony | File photo: RollingNews.ie

Holles Street master Rhona Mahony has spoken of the "medical roulette" faced by doctors dealing with cases covered by the eighth amendment.

In an interview with Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show, Dr Mahony cited the example of women whose waters break 14 weeks into pregnancy.

In such cases, the mother can be at risk of severe infection, while her baby has only a slim chance of surviving, she said.

"The chance of that baby being born well is tiny, but there's a significant risk she will develop [an infection].

"We are charged with waiting until she develops that infection before we can do deliver…

"By the time it’s apparent to us, she can be very sick indeed."

Dr Mahony added that the legislation can leave doctors with a very narrow window when treating pregnant women.

"We’re making that decision to deliver in the context of a custodial sentence of 14 years, in a criminal context, which is very unusual in medicine.

"It’s really not sensible when you're making high-level clinical decisions."

Dr Mahony said medical professionals should be able to decide on the best course of treatment free of legal considerations.

She acknowledged the difficulty of finding an appropriate wording to replace the eighth amendment but said the law must be flexible enough to support medical judgment.