Irish woman died flying home from abortion in Britain, top Dublin doctor reveals
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Irish woman died flying home from abortion in Britain, top Dublin doctor reveals

THE Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin has warned that Irish laws are putting women’s lives at risk after a woman died flying home from Britain due to complications following a termination.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment yesterday, Dr Fergal Malone revealed one of his patients passed away after being forced to travel to the UK for an abortion.

He said Ireland’s controversial Eighth Amendment to the Constitution – which bars abortion in almost every case – is stopping doctors from giving women sufficient medical care.

“We are aware of at least one of our patients from Ireland who died following a complication from a surgical termination of pregnancy while travelling between Ireland and a centre abroad,” he said.

“Forcing patients to travel between two jurisdictions, particularly when dealing with travel between islands, will inevitably increase the risks to mothers’ physical health and wellbeing”.

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He reiterated: “We have had a woman die – die – from Ireland who travelled to the UK for a pregnancy termination, on her way back from a complication of the procedure.

“We can’t care for these people who make that decision in the way we would want to care for them.

“That is really why I am here today - to suggest that we should be able to care for all of our patients – irrespective of their personal, religious and moral background.”

The Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Rhona Mahoney, said the Eighth Amendment “makes no clinical sense” and “creates an unacceptable risk that should be removed”.

She added: “Prior to foetal viability, we do not have the option of delivering a foetus because the foetus cannot survive and if a pregnant mother dies her baby dies too.

“Therefore, prior to foetal viability this constitutional provision makes no clinical sense.

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“However, its presence facilitates a real possibility that clinical decision-making may be delayed and distorted as clinicians ponder the law rather than medicine.”

Dr Mahony said that 60 of her patients last year travelled to Britain for a termination of pregnancy.

She also explained that 43 Irish women under her care have made the same journey so far this year in 2017.

She noted: “The diagnosis of a major foetal anomaly and particular a foetal anomaly in which survival is unlikely after birth is a really difficult part of my job.

“It is not just the physical consequence, it is also the psychological consequence and the circumstance in which a young person might choose to obtain tablets from a source she doesn’t know and take them with all that risk – and why she is doing that on her own without accessing good medical care.

“I am referring to children and women of limited means who can’t travel.”

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Also speaking to the committee, US doctor Abigal Aiken said there was evidence women in Ireland were using coat hangers and drinking bleach in order to force miscarriages, due to the lack of access to abortion services.

She outlined that Irish women have used “coat hangers, starvation, high doses of vitamin C, strenuous exercise, large quantities of alcohol, scalding water, drinking bleach and throwing themselves downstairs,” in recent years.

The Oireachtas Committee was also told that replacing the Eighth Amendment with a law which only allows abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities in next year’s referendum will still endanger the lives of women.

Barrister Naula Butler said that establishing proof of such circumatances would “likely prove to be very difficult.”

Butler also told the Committee that only a full repeal of the Amendment would give “a degree of immediate legal certainty” to the issue of abortion in Ireland.