Medical Council updates ethical guide to avert conflict

Medical Council confirmed its Ethics Working Group is continuing to work on ethical guide

The Medical Council has deleted four paragraphs of its ethical guide and amended another to remove “any conflict” with the newly introduced legis­lation facilitating for the medical
termination of pregnancy.

The deleted paragraphs numbered 48.1 to 48.4 were listed under a section of the ethical guide, last updated in 2016, dealing with abortion.

Paragraph 48.5 under this section has, however, been retained,but in a slightly edited version. The word “abortion” has been replaced by “termination of pregnancy”. It reads: “You have a duty to provide care, support and follow up for women who have had a termination of pregnancy”.

The revision of the abortion section of the Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics came into force from the commencement of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, on January 1, 2019.

The deleted paragraphs state: 48.1 You have an ethical duty to make every reasonable effort to protect the life and health of pregnant women and their unborn babies; 48.2 During pregnancy, rare complications can arise where a therapeutic intervention is required which may result in there being little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby; 48.3 Abortion is legally permissible where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the woman which cannot be prevented by other means.

This risk, while substantial, may not be immediate or inevitable in all cases. This risk should be assessed in light of current evidence-based best practice and 48.4 With regard to abortion abroad, it is lawful to give information in Ireland subject to strict conditions. However, it is not lawful to promote or advocate an abortion in such cases.
Meanwhile, the Council confirmed its Ethics Working Group is continuing to work on the Guide. The Group is reviewing a number of sections, including the four sections it went to consultation on already with the profession and key stakeholders.

They were “Paragraph 7 Dignity of the patient”, “Paragraph 8 Equality and diversity”, “Paragraph 48 Abortion” and “Paragraph 49 Conscientious objection”. After this process, the Group is will make further recommendations to the full Medical Council.

By Valerie Ryan