Anne-Marie Walsh Irish Independent Friday May 9th 2007.
A LEADING obstetrician has revealed that three patients asked to leave his care yesterday when he went public about his views on abortion.
Dr Declan Keane said they contacted Holles Street Hospital and asked to switch consultants after hearing him support terminations in situations like that of Miss D.
The Master of the National Maternity Hospital said he believed the majority of the more than 104 obstetricians that worked in Ireland would support abortion where a foetus could not survive. But he said many of the consultants were reluctant to speak out about their views.
Consultants at all the country's maternity hospitals, including The Coombe, St Munchin's, and Cork University Hospital, were contacted by the Irish Independent yesterday.
All were unavailable for comment except Dr John Morrison at NUI Galway. He agreed most obstetricians would support a termination in cases of "lethal foetal malformation".
Dr Keane was one of three masters, as well as Michael Geary at the Rotunda and Sean Daly at The Coombe, who made their views public before the last referendum. Their statement was critical in swaying voters from passing a referendum that would have removed the risk of suicide as a grounds for a lawful termination here.
"Nothing gets this country going more than the question of abortion," said Dr Keane. "I think these patients' decisions to leave my care is a reactive thing, and I can understand that as abortion is a highly divisive issue. Three patients rang up to switch their doctor. I was told two wanted to change to other consultants. There are always patients who don't agree with you.
"It's difficult to know exactly how many obstetricians would support abortion in these circumstances as there has never been a straw poll, but I would say there is probably a majority.
"It's very divisive but I think there's a strong cohort of obstetricians in this country who certainly agree in conditions where the baby has no possibility of living life outside the womb, and there are very few of these conditions. There is a handful, of which anencephaly is one. We should be looking at ways of dealing with that in this country."
He insisted abortion in such cases would not lead to a free-for-all where women might abort babies when a scan showed they had a minor disability, such as a cleft palate.