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Chair of Irish Ob-GYN Institute makes Wild Claims Not Backed Up By Colleagues Or By The Evidence

by | Apr 26, 2018

Dr. Peter Boylan must resign

By Save The 8th

Editor’s note. “Save The 8th” is a pro-life grassroots Irish coalition dedicated to protecting the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution which recognizes the equal rights of mothers and unborn babies. There is a referendum on the 8th scheduled for May.

Dr. Peter Boylan

More than 2,000 people in under 6 hours have signed a petition calling on Dr. Peter Boylan to resign as Chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists after he made patently false and misleading claims about women dying as a consequence of the 8th Amendment.

Hot Press published Boylan’s claim that “At least 4 women have died as a result of the 8th amendment” – a claim they hastily changed to “3 women” when it was challenged on Twitter by Save the 8th Communications Director, John McGuirk.

You can read a full refutation of Boylan’s claims here but it’s also useful to see what other doctors have said in regard to the claim that the 8th has caused women to die. And watch out for the surprise inclusion at the end!

Dr. Michael O’Hare:

I am concerned about misinformation being circulated in the media in respect of an alleged contribution of the Eighth Amendment to maternal mortality and morbidity in Ireland. An audit of maternal mortality and severe morbidity in Ireland has been ongoing for some years, and is an important measure of quality of care in maternity services. The rate for the triennium 2013-15 was 6.5 per 100,000 maternities, compared with 8.76 per 100,000 maternities for the UK.

Severe maternal morbidity is also acknowledged internationally as an important quality indicator of obstetric care and maternal welfare, particularly in developed countries where maternal death rates are relatively low. Data for Ireland has been collected and subjected to anonymised analysis by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre since 2011, and annual reports have been published.

Using the validated methodology of the Scottish Confidential Audit of Severe Maternal Morbidity to facilitate international comparison, Irish rates compare favourably with published Scottish data.

It is important to state that none of the consecutive reports published by these two national audits of obstetric practice raises any concerns in relation to the Eighth Amendment. The conclusion is obvious – there is no evidence whatever of a higher risk of maternal mortality or severe morbidity in Ireland as a result of the Eighth Amendment.

Dr. Michael F O’Hare, MD FRCPI FRCOG Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. Chairman, Joint Institute of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists/HSE Working Group on Maternal Mortality.

Dr Mary Holohan:

“I am concerned that recent statements are causing unnecessary fears for women. They suggest that obstetricians are curtailed in their ability to care for pregnant patients who are seriously ill and are causing unnecessary fears. Ireland’s law fully provides for the small number of cases relating to necessary obstetric interventions. Where it arises, the duty to intervene to save the woman’s life is clear. Under the present law we have full freedom and support for the requirements of ethical and safe practice.

“The threat to the woman’s life does not need to be imminent. We have the scope of practice needed to guarantee best international standards of care to women in pregnancy. Indeed, Ireland has an excellent record by any measure of performance, with very low numbers of women who tragically die in pregnancy.”

Dr. Eamonn McGuinness:

“Terminations required to save a woman’s life are legal in Ireland. They have been legal since 1983. The amendment does not inhibit our ability to treat a woman. It does one thing only – it bans us from intentionally killing one of our patients.”

Dr. John Monaghan:

“I delivered between 4,000 and 5,000 babies during my career. Not on one occasion was I prevented from protecting a woman’s life because of the Eighth Amendment. Ireland is a remarkably safe place to be pregnant. It is a very simple observation that if the Eighth Amendment was dramatically risking the health of women, this would not be the case. The figures don’t add up.”

Dr. Sam Coulter Smyth, to the Oireachtas [Parliamentary] Committee in 2013:

“I was asked if there had been any needless maternal deaths [under the 8th] because people would not or felt they could not act. I am not aware of any such case.

And finally, just several months ago on October 18, 2017:

Deputy Mattie McGrath: I thank the witnesses for staying with us.

During the last hearings on this issue held by the Oireachtas in 2013, the former Senator, John Crown, asked obstetricians, including the masters of the Rotunda and National Maternity Hospital, if they knew of any instance where doctors were prevented from intervening to save a woman’s life because of Ireland’s legal ban on abortion, namely, the eighth amendment. All the doctors said they did not know of any instance. Does Dr. Boylan agree with their evidence?

Dr. Peter Boylan: The most egregious example is Savita Halappanavar. She died as a consequence of the eighth amendment. [1]

Deputy Mattie McGrath: That was a tragic case and there are many differing opinions about it.


Chairman: Deputy Mattie McGrath had the floor and the witness is entitled to answer.

Dr. Peter Boylan: I had the opportunity of reviewing her notes forensically. I may have an unfair advantage in that respect.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Aside from that tragic situation, are there other cases?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Professor Arulkumaran shares my opinion. He also had the opportunity of doing an in-depth investigation, including interviewing all of the relevant people, apart from the one midwife who was on sick leave.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: I accept that. However, outside of that tragic case, the Savita case, were there other cases?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Of maternal death?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Yes.

Dr. Peter Boylan:

I cannot think of one off the top of my head.

[1]As Save the Eighth notes in its full rebuttal, “No fewer than three enquiries into Savita’s death found that she had died as a result of mismanaged sepsis,” not the Eighth Amendment.

Categories: Ireland