WHO IS PETER BOYLAN?

The inquest into Savita Halappanavar's death has heard that she died from the worst case of E.coli infection that experts has ever seen - and that doctors missed signs of the infection.

Yet Dr Peter Boylan has tried to blame Ireland's ban on abortion for Savita's tragic death.

It's important to know that:

1. Peter Boylan has already publicly stated that he wants abortion legalised in Ireland.  (MORE)

2. He is now contradicting his previous public statement where he said that Irish law obliged doctors to save the mother's life. (MORE)

3. The evidence from Obstetricians and from our hospitals does not back up his claim. (MORE)

4. Boylan is not representing a body of doctors in making this claim. (MORE)

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1. Peter Boylan has already put it on public record that he supports abortion legislation in Ireland

Since 2002, Dr Boylan has repeatedly supported the legalisation of abortion in Ireland.

Last November 25th, Boylan wrote an article in the Sunday Business Post which supported legalised abortion on a number of grounds.*

In 2002, he signed a public statement opposing a proposal that he thought would restrict abortion in Ireland.** The statement supported legalising abortion on suicide grounds.

In 2012, Boylan was also a member of a government appointed 'expert group' who recommended that abortion be legalised in Ireland.

Last November he addressed a briefing organised by abortion campaigners in the Dáil. ***

The Life Institute has queried as to why Dr Boylan was the only expert obstetric witnesses called to the inquest to give his opinion on Irish law. The Coroner, Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin, should have also heard from other obstetricians who were neutral in relation to the law on abortion.

   

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2. He is contradicting himself

The statement signed by Dr Boylan in 2002 contradicts what he is claiming now.**

He acknowledged that the 'mother's equal right to life was enshrined in the Constitution.'

And he agreed that the current legal position in Ireland 'would certainly not interfere with an obstetrician's duty to do everything possible to preserve the lives of pregnant women'.

Now he is claiming that the law needs to be changed to allow doctors to intervene to ensure women's safety.


     

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3. The evidence from obstetricians do not back up his claim

Doctors have already confirmed that Ireland's ban on abortion does not prevent them from acting to save mother's lives - even if that leads to the unintended loss of the baby's life.

And top doctors have said that Savita's case was not about abortion, and that women are safe in Ireland.

Women are not dying in this country because of our ban on abortion. That was confirmed most recently at the Oireachtas Committee hearings on abortion, where top Obstetricians clearly stated that not one woman had died in Ireland because our pro-life laws prevented them from doing their job.

15 obstetricians also wrote to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children confirming that the current legal position ensured they were free to intervene to save a mother's life. The Coroner should have asked one or more of these experts to also give evidence to the inquest

An expert at the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar said that she died from the worst case of sepsis he had ever seen in 30 years.

Drs Peter Kelehan and Grace Callagy said that the sepsis was caused by E.coli ESBL - a virulent bacteria which is very resistant to antibiotics and has a fatality rate of up to 60%.

Dr Peter Kelehan told the inquest that he had seen less than 5 such cases of in his career - and that no patients had died.

Dr Boylan claims that Irish law prevents doctors from acting, but that is not backed up by the evidence from clinical outcomes.

There are some 14,000 miscarriages in Ireland each year. Infection is a risk in many of those, and we have no cases on record where a mother lost her life because obstetricians felt that the law on abortion stopped them from intervening.

Most recently, Dr Sam Coulter Smith, master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, said that he had terminated a pregnancy in four instances last year where women had been diagnosed with sepsis.

The baby did not survive in all four cases. Clearly doctors are free to act, and do act every day to protect women in these situations.

   

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4. He is not representing a body of doctors in making this claim

Dr Boylan is not representing a medical body or Obstetricians in making this claim - this is his opinion, and he is a publicly declared advocate for legislation on abortion.

 

      

LINKS

* The SBP article is available by subscription here:

** The 2002 statement is available in the Irish Times archives here:

Excerpts from that statement/report on the 2002 abortion referendum:

They acknowledged that a Yes vote would support current obstetric practice, but questioned whether a referendum was necessary given that the mother's equal right to life was already enshrined in the Constitution.

"A No vote would certainly not interfere with an obstetrician's duty to do everything possible to preserve the lives of pregnant women."

"A Yes vote will however, outlaw abortion to save the life of a suicidal pregnant woman," the statement said.

*** http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/DebatesWebPack.nsf/takes/seanad2012121100005