Doctors for Life Ireland Statement on Conscientious Objection

1. The practice of medicine is a service to human dignity and doctors must adhere to the highest standards of professional competence in treating, protecting and advocating for patients.

2. In the course of their work on behalf of patients, doctors have the right not to participate in procedures which, in conscience, they believe to be wrong.

3. Doctors should not, by action or omission, deliberately shorten a patient’s life. Doctors must respect a patient’s fully-informed decision to refuse life-sustaining treatment or to request withdrawal of medical treatment.

4. Doctors have the right to refuse applications for referral for treatments to which they object in conscience.

5. Doctors have an obligation to provide care in emergencies, even if the condition results from a procedure to which the doctor has a conscientious objection.

6. Doctors have an obligation to explain the reasons for their conscientious objection with clarity and courtesy to patients and colleagues. Patients have a right to see another doctor and to be given impartial information as to how they can exercise that right. [Full text]

The Citizens’ Assembly report ignores conscientious objection

Iona Institute
Reproduced with permission

Dr. Angelo Bottone

At the end of June, Ms Justice Laffoy  presented her report on the Citizens’ Assembly meetings dedicated to the discussion of the 8th amendment. In spite of calls for the provision and regulation of conscientious objection to abortion, the report has made no recommendation about it.

The Citizens’ Assembly members voted for Article 40.3.3 to “be replaced with a constitutional provision that explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the pregnant woman.” If this will happen it will be also necessary to regulate the right of conscientious objectors.

As one of the purposes of the Citizens’ Assembly was to make recommendations about what should be included in a possible new legislation, one wonders why it failed to address this fundamental issue, ignoring the suggestions and requests coming from Assembly members, private citizens, advocacy groups and professional bodies.

During the first weekend of the Citizens’ Assembly, in November, members were asked to identify topics that they believed to be important. The regulation of conscientious objection was one of the key points raised. Following their request, at the February meeting Prof. Gerard Bury delivered a paper on the “Regulation of the medical profession and issues arising including conscientious objection”. Other speakers have occasionally referred to the same issue.

Some submissions from private citizens, advocacy groups and professional bodies have also dealt with this topic, suggesting different solutions to the regulation of conscientious objection. These submissions came both from the pro-life and the pro-choice sides. (See, for instance, the contributions of the Green Party, Amnesty International Ireland or the Irish Council for Civil Liberty.) Unfortunately, we know that the large majority of those submissions have been ignored by the Assembly and only a random selection have been offered to its members for reflection.

Freedom of conscience is recognised by art. 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved a resolution on the right of conscientious objection in lawful medical care stating that “No personal, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason.”

Note that the resolution refers not only to individuals but also to hospitals and institutions. This is precisely what is missing in the current legislation, which allows conscientious objection only to some healthcare professionals but not to entire hospitals and institutions. Any discussion on abortion inevitably has to address who can object to their performance and in what circumstances. The submissions have proposed different solutions. Why then there was no vote by Assembly members on conscientious objection? Why not even an ancillary recommendation about it?

Savita Halappanavar death: nine members of medical team disciplined

Staff at Galway University hospital given limited sanctions for role in death of Indian dentist who was refused an abortion

The Guardian

Henry McDonald

Nine members of the Irish medical team that treated an Indian dentist who died after being refused an abortion have been disciplined.

Galway University hospital said the nine were part of a larger medical team looking after Savita Halappanavar before she died from blood poisoning in October 2012.

Halappanavar had demanded that her pregnancy be terminated after fearing the foetus was dead and likely to give her sepsis. Her request was turned down after medical staff said they detected a foetal heartbeat. She was 17 weeks pregnant and miscarrying when she fell ill. [Full text]

Baby delivered at 25 weeks gestation in Ireland to avoid death by abortion

Sean Murphy*

News reports indicate that an immigrant woman whom a friend says was raped in her country of origin discovered that she was pregnant after arriving in Ireland.  The friend says that she asked for an abortion when she was eight weeks pregnant, but it is not clear that she was then eligible for the procedure under the new Irish abortion law.  According to the reports, she again asked for an abortion in July, threatening suicide, and was found to be suicidal by a panel of two psychiatrists and an obstetrician.

The Irish Constitution and the Irish abortion law hold that the lives of both woman and child are of equal value, and both must be saved if practicable.  Since the pregnancy was so far advanced, it was decided that the baby should be delivered by Caesarean section, since that would provide the baby an opportunity to survive.  The woman initially refused and refused to take food or fluids.  After medical authorities obtained a court order to rehydrate her she consented to the Caesarean and the baby was delivered at about 25 weeks gestation.  The baby is now apparently in the custody of the state and being supported in a neonatal ward, while the mother is receiving psychiatric treatment.

The case has reignited the abortion controversy in Ireland.

 

 

Bishop expresses concern for freedom of conscience

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Bishop Leahy warns against “emptying religious freedom of any meaningful content” in the name of “tolerance or equality”

Catholic Ireland

Sarah MacDonald

The State must respect freedom of conscience, the Bishop of Limerick, Dr. Brendan Leahy, said in an address on religious freedom delivered in Limerick last night.

He warned that religious freedom and conscience were being “effectively” marginalised from the public square by “tendencies that would interpret religious freedom in a narrow sense.”


‘The Meaning of Religious Freedom’

The Bishop of Limerick warned against “emptying religious freedom of any meaningful content” in the name of “tolerance or equality”.

He urged religious believers to speak up.

“In the contemporary socio-cultural climate, when a vision of life inspired by faith can subtly but effectively be deemed not PC, it is important for us to recognise the public role of religion and not be afraid to speak up,” he said. . . [Full text]

Amendment proposed to new Irish abortion law

Independent Deputy Clare Daly has introduced Bill Number 115 of 2013 (Protection of Life in Pregnancy (Amendment) (Fatal Foetal Abnormalities) 2013 in the Irish parliament (Oireachtas) to expand the reasons for abortion to include cases in which the foetus is diagnosed as having “a medical condition . . .such that it is incompatible with life outside the womb.”  The government will not oppose the bill.  [Irish Times]

American activist organization assists with push for expanded abortion law in Ireland

The Center for Reproductive Rights, an American activist organization based in New York, is assisting three women who are approaching the United Nations in an attempt to force Ireland to expand its newly-minted abortion law to include abortion for reasons of foetal abnormality likely to result in the death of the child soon after birth.  They are also supported by an Irish “Doctors for Choice” group. [Irish Central] [The Guardian]

Priest resigns after Mater Hospital agrees to comply with Irish abortion law

Father Kevin Doran of Dublin has resigned from the board of the Mater Hospital following its public statement that it would comply with the new Irish abortion law, which has not yet come into effect.  Fr. Doran had previously said that it would be inconsistent with the Catholic ethos of the hospital to provide abortions.  The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin in making enquiries about the hospital’s position. [The Journal]

 

Irish hospital agrees to comply with abortion law

The Mater Hospital in Dublin has announced that it will comply with Ireland’s new abortion law, which requires designated institutions, including the Mater, to provide abortions approved under the terms of the statute.  Father Kevin Doran, a member of the board of directors, had previously stated  that the hospital could not comply with the law. [The Journal]

Artificial reproduction unregulated in Ireland

Artificial reproduction is not regulated in Ireland, so that sperm and egg donors and people having recourse to it and children conceived or carried to term in surrogacy arrangements may have to go to court to determine their legal status and relationships.  Questions about what to do with embryos abandoned by their parents have also arisen, although this problem also exists in jurisdictions that regulate the procedures.  The Irish Ministry of Health is now considering regulatory proposals. [Irish Examiner]