THE PRESIDENT of the Irish Medical Council has said his body is unaware of any maternal deaths arising as a result of the current legal situation in Ireland on abortion.
Prof Kieran Murphy told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children that his body had no indication that any mothers had died as a result of the current legal situation, where a right to abortion in limited circumstances has been determined by the courts but does not exist in legislation.
Both Murphy and the body’s chief executive Caroline Spillane stressed that the body would only become aware of a death if a complaint had been made to the Medical Council about the circumstances surrounding that death.
However, both said they were not aware of any complaints having been made to the council about a doctor’s failure to follow the council’s guidelines.
Around 420 complaints of alleged medical malpractice were made in 2011, the most recent figure for which figures are available.
Complaints to the council can be made by a patient, their own family, or by another medical professional who has acted alongside the person to whom the complaint refers.
Murphy told the committee that while the council’s ethics guidelines were not themselves a legal code, they reflected the current legal position in Ireland and that the guidelines were amended whenever the legal situation also changed.
The Irish Medical Council’s submission to the committee on the proposed new abortion laws further outlined its belief that the forthcoming laws should include a clause allowing doctors to exercise a conscientious objection if they have a moral opposition to carrying out an abortion.
However, the council said this should be combined with an obligation to transfer a patient into the care of another professional who does not have such an objection.
Murphy added that the council’s ethics guidelines meant a conscientious objection did not absolve a doctor from their obligation to carry out the appropriate medical procedures in emergency situations.