Holles Confidential

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Dr Peter Boylan, above, the Clinical Director of the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street, Dublin, appeared on RTE R1’s Morning Ireland earlier to discuss the first reported termination of a pregnancy apparently carried out under the provisions of the new abortion legislation.

Cathal Mac Coille: “What can you say about this?”

Dr. Peter Boylan: “Well, first of all, I’m not sure how the journalist knows that this is the first termination and whether, or not he’s got his facts right.”

Mac Coille: “Is it the first?”

Dr. Boylan: …”I have no idea! We don’t have access to all obstetric units in the country and I doubt if he does too.”

Mac Coille: “Is it the first in the National Maternity Hospital?”

Dr. Boylan: “No, I mean we would be caring for patients and making the appropriate clinical decisions, such as this, regularly.”

Mac Coille: “So just to be clear, are you saying that this is not the first such procedure cariried out under the terms of the new legislation?”

Dr Boylan: “No, well, I can’t answer that! There are reporting mechanisms put in place by the Minister, so that at the end of each year there would be figures available for the public.”

Mac Coille: “Again, just to be clear, when you say, you can’t answer it, you are the Clinical Director of the Hospital, and therefore”…

Dr. Boylan: “It’s not that I can’t, it’s that I’m not going to….(answer)”

Mac Coille: “You’re not denying it, so, you’re just saying that you can’t confirm or deny it?”

Dr. Boylan: “No, I can, but I’m not going to!”

Mac Coille: “Ok.”

Dr. Boylan: “Patient confidentiality is at the key of this whole thing, at the root of this whole thing. It’s absolutely unacceptable for a patients details to be splashed around the front page of a newspaper. One of the first things I’ll be doing today and we’ll be doing it next week is investigating and seeing who is the source of this information who has been giving this out to the public. it’s not fair on patients to do this. And it’s completely unethical if the doctor who was giving this information to the public…”

Mac Coille: “Is it not correct that the Minister for Health is required to publish a yearly report on terminations where they were carried out and the number of terminations. So that this is information that would in the normal course of events become available anyway?”

Dr. Boylan: “It will become available, in a global sense throughout the country, individual institutions will not be named, for obvious reasons. Patient confidentiality will be maintained. But to give our individual detais of a patient to a member of the press is absolutely unethical behaviour, by any medical personnel. And if it’s a doctor, then this sort of transgression,if you like, or bad behaviour could well end up before the Medical Council. Patient confidentiality is absolutely critical in our dealing with women in sensitive and difficult situations.”

Mac Coille: “And is that…, you mentioned the Medical Council’s regulations, what about, is there a particular code enforced at the National Maternity Hospital?”
Dr. Boylan: “There’s a code of confidentiality right across the medical profession. When a patient goes to see a doctor, that’s an episode that appears between the doctor and the patient. When a patient is in a hospital, anything that happens to that patient within that hospital remains confidential. And it’s absolutely critical that it stays the way it is, and its standards of confidentiality are maintained by serious professionals. This is not the sort of behaviour you can expect from a serious professional, it’s completely unprofessional to give details of a patient which allows her to be identified. And can you imagine her distress to find her details are spread across the front of a newspaper and being discussed in the news? It’s outrageous.”

Mac Coille: “Are you talking about a formal investigation, or what kind of inquiry are you intending to launch, and how quickly?”

Dr. Boylan: “Well, that depends on how easy it is! I mean, if someone ‘fesses up and says, ‘yes, it was me and I’m very sorry’, then that’s very straightforward.”

Mac Coille: ” If they do….” (interrupts)

Dr. Boylan: “The most serious thing about this Cathal, is the serious breach in 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.”

Mac Coille: “And if a medical professional were to say, they did it, if that were to arise and to apologise, would that be the end of the matter?”

Dr. Boylan: “It depends, it’s too early to say”

Mac Coille: “Dr. Peter Boylan, thank you very much!”

Listen here

Earlier: First Abortion Mystery

The Floodgates

(Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)