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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 30 August, 2014

113 psychiatrists underline calls for abortion laws to exclude suicide

The psychiatrists, who responded to a nationwide survey undertaken by four colleagues, say abortion is not a treatment for suicidal ideation.

Dr Bernie McCabe, centre, outside Leinster House yesterday when details of 113 psychiatrists' concerns about abortion law were explained to politicians.
Dr Bernie McCabe, centre, outside Leinster House yesterday when details of 113 psychiatrists' concerns about abortion law were explained to politicians.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

ALMOST 90 PER CENT of respondents to a nationwide survey of psychiatrists have expressed concern with the Government’s plan to include the risk of suicide as grounds for an abortion under forthcoming legislation.

113 of 127 psychiatrists, who took part in a survey organised by four of their peers, said they agreed with a statement that they were “deeply concerned” about plans to legislate for suicidality as grounds for an abortion being carried out.

The statement asked psychiatrists whether they believed that allowing suicide as grounds for an abortion “has no basis in the medical evidence available”.

They also affirmed that the proposals “must be based on a rigorous appraisal of the available psychiatric research and medical evidence”.

“We as psychiatrists are being called upon to participate in a process that is not evidence-based and we do not believe that this should be asked of the profession,” the statement further added.

The survey was sent to 302 consultant psychiatrists, with 127 responses received.

The Supreme Court ruling in the X Case – the first case where the Irish Constitution was found to allow abortion under any circumstances – specifically identified suicide as grounds for an abortion, on the basis that it posed a threat to the life of the mother.

Medical practitioners have regularly warned that abortion has never been identified as a valid medical treatment to treat depression or suicidal thoughts, however – with pro-life campaigners saying that formally permitting it could be abused to allow a more liberal regime.

One of the four psychiatrists who organised the survey, Dr Bernie McCabe – who has previously written to public representatives outlining similar fears – said she was “not surprised” that so many colleagues believed the government’s proposals were flawed.

“As members of the medical profession, we have a duty to our patients to adopt best practice and an evidence-based approach to everything we do. The fact is that there is no evidence that abortion is a treatment for suicidality in pregnancy and may in fact be harmful to women,” she said.

“The Government must take this into account and reconsider its proposals.”

Read: Fianna Fáil to debate its pro-life stance as Ard Fheis gets under way

More: Lucinda Creighton tells Olivia O’Leary to ‘get a grip’ over abortion issue

Plus: Restrictive Irish abortion law ‘could be rejected by Europe’

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