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The Medical Council’s Guidance on Abortion

The Medical Council is the professional governing body for doctors in Ireland.

It describes its role as being “responsible for protecting the public by promoting and better ensuring high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among doctors. Doctors must always be guided by their primary responsibility to act in the best interests of their patients.”

To aid Doctors in meeting those responsibilities in difficult situations, the Medical Council has produced The Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners.

It deals with the expected norms of professional conduct and practice and aims to help guide its member doctors to making good decisions.

Section 21 deals with the issue of Abortion.

Section 21.1 reads

21.1 Abortion is illegal in Ireland except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life (as distinct from the health) of the mother. Under current legal precedent, this exception includes where there is a clear and substantial risk to the life of the mother arising from a threat of suicide. You should undertake a full assessment of any such risk in light of the clinical research on this issue.

Section 21.2 deals with information about abortions.

Section 21.3 deals with the duty to provide care and support for women who have had abortions abroad.

Section 21.4 states

21.4 In current obstetrical practice, rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to intervene to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby.

This is the standard by which medical professionals should be judged, by their own regulatory body and by the rest of us.

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  1. […] on abortion (see McGarr Solicitors extracts from the Guide to Professional Conduct and ethics here); a failure in medicine rather than in law. But law can and does work to shape medical practice in […]