A report confirming the first legal abortion has been performed in an Irish hospital since law reforms were passed there this summer has prompted outrage that the privacy of the woman involved has been seriously violated.
According to The Guardian doctors at the Holles Street national maternity hospital in Dublin have called the press reports - which gave details of the procedure - outrageous.
In response to the growing outcry The Irish Times, which revealed news of the termination, emphasized that it had not identified the woman. The termination, now legal under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, is understood to have been carried out a number of weeks ago.
Criticizing the leak, the clinical director of the hospital, Doctor Peter Boylan, said: 'It is absolutely unacceptable for a patient's details to be splashed around the front page of the newspaper.'
Boylan added that he intends to search for the source of the story. 'It is not fair on patients to do this. It is completely unethical. It's outrageous. If it is a doctor who gave out the information, they could well end up in front of the medical council.
'Individual institutions will not be named for obvious reasons and patient confidentiality will be maintained. And to give the exact clinical details to a member of the press is absolutely unethical behavior by any medical personnel. This is not the sort of behavior you would expect from a serious professional.'
The Holles Street hospital in Dublin is one of 25 in the Republic authorized to carry out terminations under the provisions of the new law. The procedure was permitted under section 7, which deals with the risk of loss of life of a woman from physical illness.
According to RTE the hospital now plans to carry out an investigation to find the source of the leak to The Irish Times.
Boylan added: 'The breach of patient confidentiality - that's the most serious thing about this whole episode.
'Patients will get the care they deserve, and we will not let any woman die in Holles Street, we will give her the appropriate care. But we will not have her details splashed around the newspapers.'
Boylan said that the specific details printed in the Irish Times had allowed the woman to be identified.
The Irish Patients' Association has described the leak as shameful. In a statement the IPA said patient confidentiality was the cornerstone of the healthcare system and this clear breach needed to be investigated. It would have been extremely painful for the woman concerned to have the information on her case in the public domain the wrote.
Meanwhile the details of termination itself are not thought to have been controversial.
Foetal heartbeats were reportedly discovered when the woman was admitted, but soon after it was discovered that her membranes had ruptured and that she had a sepsis infection that could have endangered her life. Because of this her family and the Irish medical team decided to abort the pregnancy because of that risk to her life.
The details of the case are very similar to those of the Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died in Galway last October, except that Halappanavar asked for and was refused a termination and died a week after her admission.
The woman in this latest case was reportedly given antibiotics for her infection and survived.
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