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US doctor rejects invite to 'kangaroo court' Eighth Amendment Committee

Martin J McCaffrey says he will not be attending.

Members of the Pro-life Campaign outside Leinster House.
Members of the Pro-life Campaign outside Leinster House.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE OIREACHTAS EIGHTH amendment committee has been accused of being “biased in favour of repeal” by another witness who was invited to give evidence before it.

US-based doctor Martin J McCaffrey said he will be refusing to present before the committee despite being invited to do so after being proposed by Senator Rónán Mullen.

McCaffrey’s decision is the latest of a number of similar such pronouncements after UCD professor Patricia Casey pulled out of a planned appearance before the committee last month.

McCaffrey is a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina and his appearance before the committee would have had to be approved due to the travel involved.

It’s understood that this had not happened and his appearance had not been finalised.

Despite this, McCaffrey wrote to members of the committee and the media describing the committee as “a kangaroo court”.

He said that he would have accepted his invitation to attend had the committee not already voted against retaining the Eighth Amendment as it currently stands.

That decision is in line with the recommendation from the Citizens’ Assembly and would require a referendum.

McCaffrey said that he was “stunned” to discover that this decision had been made.

“As I researched the activities of the committee over the last several month, however, I was stunned to discover that a decision had already been made not to retain the Eighth Amendment,” he said.

I reviewed testimony on the committee website. There was none from medical experts who would speak to the medical importance of retaining the eighth. No one had yet spoken for the lives of unborn infants with challenging medical conditions other experts persisted in calling it “fatal”.

“It was equally disturbing to see “fatal” interchanged with “complex” anomalies by several medical witnesses,” he added.

Self-described pro-life members of the committee Senator Rónán Mullen and Mattie McGrath TD have regularly attacked the structure of the committee and at one point threatened to remove themselves from it.

Reacting to the decision by McCaffrey to withdraw himself from the committee and to others doing the same, committee chair Senator Catherin Noone said it was regrettable.

“I regret the stance that certain campaigners have made because I don’t think it serves the overall purpose of the committee members to be deprived of hearing the views of certain experts, international and otherwise who would help our work,” she said.

The committee is currently meeting again today to focus on medical law and mental health issues. It first sat seven weeks ago as it continues its deliberations on the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly.

A report is due to be completed before Christmas and Noone says she expects this deadline to be met.

I think we’re on schedule. I’m not underestimating the amount of work that we have to do between now and December but there seems to be a very clear ambition on behalf of all members of the committee to achieve the goal of reporting by the 20 December. I would anticipate that we will report to the Oireachtas by that date.

Read: Mattie McGrath storms out of ‘biased’ Eighth Amendment Committee >

Read: Psychiatrist pulls out of Eighth Amendment Committee appearance >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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