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The National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street in Dublin Photo by: RTE

Confusion as abortion takes place in Ireland at Dublin maternity hospital

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The National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street in Dublin Photo by: RTE

Various news outlets have reported that that first ever fully legal abortion had taken place in Ireland under new legislation passed recently by the Irish houses of parliament. However the Health Service Executive (HSE) has released a statement pointing out that the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act "has not yet commenced".

The Irish Times reported that the termination in question took place at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street in Dublin and was carried out on an 18 week pregnant mother whose twin fetuses were determined to be non-viable and who was suffering signs of the deadly sepsis disease.

Her case was remarkably similar to that of Savita Halappanavar, the Indian dentist living in Mayo who died from sepsis after being refused an abortion because her doctors feared they would break the law.

On Friday the HSE released the following statement "The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act was signed into law by the President on 30 July 2013.

"It has not yet commenced.  It will be commenced as soon as is practicable.

"There are operational issues which need to be addressed before it can be commenced.

"These include the establishment of a panel of medical practitioners for the purpose of the formal medical review provisions and administrative facilities to enable the review committee, drawn from the review panel, to perform its functions.  

"As provided for in the Act, these operational issues will be addressed by the HSE."

Ireland’s National Maternity Hospital is one of 25 hospitals in the State allowed to carry out terminations of pregnancy under the new law.

The termination in question was reportedly carried out under section 7 of the law, which covers imminent risk  to of death to  a woman from physical illness.

As the law demands,  the woman’s obstetrician and another doctor certified there was a real and substantial risk to her life, which could only be prevented by carrying out an abortion.

“Even before the passage of the legislation, Holles Street would have carried out terminations in cases like this, where the prognosis for the pregnancy was very poor,” a senior hospital source told The Irish Times.

“What’s changed is that we can do our work in the best interests of patients without fear of a possible Medical Council case.”

The woman’s membrane had ruptured for almost 24 hours and she was at grave risk for sepsis. The twin foetuses had no chance of survival after being born at under 18 weeks.

Speaking on Irish radio Doctor Peter Boylan the Clinical Director of  Holles Street, said he was outraged by the breach of patient confidentiality in the Irish Times story describing it as “absolutely unethical.”

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