A Decision To Print


paul cullen

Aingeala Flannery, sitting in for Matt Cooper on Today FM’s Last Word last night, spoke with Paul Cullen, above, Health Correspondent for the Irish Times about criticism of his paper’s report on the the ‘first abortion’ under the new Protection of Pregnancy During Life legislation.

Aingeala Flannery: “Now, the Department of Health has said a termination of pregnancy carried out at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street did not take place under the protection of the ‘Life During Pregancy Act’, as the act has not commenced yet. It was reported in the ‘Irish Times’ today that a procedure carried out a number of weeks ago was the first to be carried out under the Act. Dr. Peter Boylan, the Clinical Director of Holles Street, is extremely unhappy about the newspaper report and says that patient confidentiality has been breached. I’m joined now by Paul Cullen, the ‘Irish Times’ health correspondent, and by Simon Mills, barrister and doctor. Paul, if I could go to you first. You wrote this report in the ‘Irish Times.’ What are the circumstances of the patient who had the termination?”

Paul Cullen: “Well, this my the report in the paper this morning. This concerned a termination which took place at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street recently and involved a woman who was in the second trimester and whose membranes had ruptured and there was a threat to her life. And the pregnancy was considered unviable. And after discussions involving the woman and a number of obstetricians and other medics in the hospital, a termination was carried out.”

Flannery: “Now, the Clinical Director of Holles Street, Dr. Peter Boylan, is extremely unhappy about this. He says patient confidentiality has been compromised.”

Cullen: “Yes, I heard that interview this morning. I can hear where people are coming from, when they refer to issues around patient confidentiality. I would say that, while there are rights to patient confidentiality, there are also rights for the public to know what is happening. And in this case – and in all the reporting by ‘The Irish Times’ on this issue, over the last year and before – we’ve been trying to put out there what is in the public interest. And I think it would be acknowledged by everyone that this new leglislation and the issues around it and the medical practices within hospitals are of huge public interest, and it would be also of intense interest to see how the new legislation fares, and whether it does bring the clarity it means to bring.”

Flannery: “But Paul, the Department of Health is saying it has nothing to do with the new legislation, that it didn’t take place under the ‘Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.’

Cullen: “Well, certainly the case is the first to come to light since the legislation went through the Dail, and I think there was a wide-spread belief… which the department has surprised a lot of people today by pointing out correctly that the legislation has not yet been commenced – somewhat surprisingly. But certainly cases like this would come under the provisions of the Act, particularly section 7, which relate to medical cases, physical threats to a woman’s health. So I think it’s justified on the basis of public interest.”

Flannery: “Okay, Paul, rather than get tied up on whether the act has come into force or not: you say that you believe that this in the public interest. Why is it in the public interest?”

Cullen: Well, because I think people… obviously, this debate about abortion has raged in this country for many decades. I think that there are very strongly-held views on both sides. As a reporter, I’m trying to relay facts to give as comprehensive a picture as I can, and that’s what I tried to do in this article today. I would point out, for example, that our newspaper was the first to report on Savita Halappanavar.

Flannery: “Paul, this is a different case and I’m wondering do you see that this could be distressing for the woman involved, that she may not have wanted her medical details to be splashed across the front page of a national newspaper?”

Cullen: “Yes, I understand, and I have received mail today, for example, from people who are concerned about the report. I understand that entirely. What I was trying to say was that I have to try and balance in my work, and all journalists have to, the right to confidentiality with the right to public disclosure of information which is in the public’s interest. In preparation of this story, we did leave out other details because of that concern. We also went through legal checks for the article, before a decision to print.”

Listen here

Previously: Holles Confidential

First Abortion Mystery

52 thoughts on “A Decision To Print

  1. Custo

    Desperate stuff from the Times.

    Still, it doesn’t have long for this world, so there’s that to cheer.

      1. Vivo

        Ha! A rather obvious irony pervades “donkey kong”‘s contriubtion. The use of the term “liberal nut” could only be rendered by one who is themselves a nut and quite a virulent strain of nut in the vein of the grim, educationally impoverished “members” of Youth Defence no doubt.

    1. cluster

      How is this desperate stuff from the IT?

      Due to this news report, we now know that the act still hasn’t be brought into force yet which I’m betting almost nobody knew beforehand.

      The IT could have been a bit more sensitive in the information issued (eg. twins) but the idea that news should be kept quiet out of a sense of greater decency is dangerous and a root cause of many of our problems.

      We don’t know who the source for the story was, and it may be that the family aren’t too happy about it but that is the job of journalists.

      1. paul

        “Due to this news report, we now know that the act still hasn’t be brought into force yet which I’m betting almost nobody knew beforehand.”
        But that is just not true. Due to the incompetence of the IT publishing a piece that was factually inaccurate we know the legislation is not in place.

        Ignoring the obvious invasion of privacy the inability to get basic facts right does scream “desperate stuff”.

    2. rotide

      Yeah, Can’t wait for the Times to disapear and leave us with unbiased non-agenda news sources like Broadsheet.

  2. Pedanto

    Bodger, that’s the worst punctuation I’ve ever seen. You could hardly do worse by washing down a lot of semi-colons with a pint of cod liver oil and crapping on the transcript from the top of a wardrobe.

    I know transcription is a giant pain, and it’s probably some software or other, but it needs serious revision.

    1. Chompsky

      Sorry, Pedanto.
      When transcribing the interview there were many points where Paul Cullen trailed off mid sentence before starting on a new point. We put in …, to suggest these breaks. They’re gone now but not sure if it helps the transcript. Thanks.

      1. Pedanto

        No worries, Bodger. It’s actually somewhat inaccurate in other ways too. I’ve sent you a clean copy, if you’re interested. It makes a lot more sense, without actually deciding the issue one way or another.

  3. Am I Still on This Island

    If you listen you can actually here the journo desperately trying to claw back some dignity & save face

  4. Annie

    Sickening excuse for what was reprehensible behavior from the Times & the journalist. In a mad rush to be ‘first’ they laid bare a woman’s worst day ‘in the publics interest’ . There is no public interest in the suffering of that woman and the loss of her pregnancy. Nobody should have their worst day used like this. Health correspondent …with no consideration of mental health.

    1. curmudgeon

      On the other hand if she was told that her pregnancy was nonviable and a threat to her life but “this is a Catholic country and we don’t do that here” how would that effect her health, mental and otherwise?

      Look there is no argument to be made for her name being published, but the hospitals have run roughshod over the interests of patients and proven near impossible to hold to account. The information leaked was sensitive but definitely in the public interest.

      1. Annie

        The argument here is printing sensitive information NOT whether a woman has a right to abortion

        1. curmudgeon

          No, you do not get to dictate what the argument is about. I have already explicitly stated that sensitive information be treated as such, and be redacted where necessary and decent.
          But to reiterate my point, and counter your argument: “There is no public interest in the suffering of that woman and the loss of her pregnancy.” I’ll edit your sentence to read “There is no public interest in the *death* of that woman and the loss of her pregnancy.” Again this story is most definitely noteworthy, for the same reason as Savita’s.

  5. Zuppy International

    So the ‘Preservation of Life during Pregnancy’ legislation is not yet enabling the medical establishment perform terminations on expectant mothers with medial complications. Turns out the old legislation can do that just fine.

    Why all the fuss?

    1. pedeyw

      Because the new legislation is imminent. Why bother taking a case that probably won’t see the light of day till well after the new legislation has been enacted?

      1. Zuppy International

        You miss my point. If a termination can be carried out under the old regulations then why all the fuss about introducing ‘new’ legislation?

        1. Am I Still on This Island

          Probably because it provides the clarity for medical staff to do what is required when needed rather than previous were decisions were made with the threat if legal prosecution looming over them. Caroline Simmons would not want women receiving the care they need

          1. Pedanto

            Or you could respond to the reasonable point Am I has made, rather than spouting slogans like a dim git.

          2. Zuppy International

            Well the law seems quite clear: it has been allowed in medical emergencies to intervene to save the life of the mother for decades.

            It seems to me that the new regulations were brought in to introduce the ‘suicide’ clause, the legal fig leaf which will cover the eventual establishment of a new regime allowing abortion on demand.

            That’s what all the fuss is a about.

          3. Pedanto

            The law is clear now. At least some medical personnel found it far from clear before the new legislation. What more justification does it need?

    2. delacaravanio

      But there’s no ‘old legislation’, it’s a lacunae that filled by some hospitals carrying out abortions, and others not doing so because of some overriding christian ethos, or some other bolloxology.

      What necessitated the legislation was to end this situation where treatment varies between the maternity hospitals because there’s no clear legislation and guidelines to indicate to doctors the proper course of action.

  6. Kevin Quinn

    I’ve listened to it, but strangely, I didn’t hear that sanctimonious prig apologise to that poor woman and her partner.

    So, uhm…how would it be in the public interest for the ‘first ever abortion’ under the new legislation to be announced with fanfare by The Irish Times? Does Mr Cullen think there should be a medal ceremony for winner too, with silver and bronze for the next two women who have emergency abortions — ones that his oh-so-ethical probing for the truth can uncover, of course?

    (By the way, the link to the audio is to the first section of the Last Word, but should be to the second part: http://player.todayfm.com/player/listen_back/7/5238/23rd_August_2013_-_The_Last_Word_with_Matt_Cooper_Part_2)

    1. Caroline

      Agreed. Journalistic equivalent of posting “FIRST” – and at great cost to one or more individuals. It should be a matter of scalding embarrassment to the IT that they didn’t check the commencement of the act – certainly legal should be kicking themselves. So this story was ostensibly in the public interest because it was the first abortion to be performed under the act, but then when it wasn’t, it was still in the public interest because – uh, you…you can’t get fooled again.

      I think the real problem is that discussion of these type of abortions was almost entirely absent in the past, despite their routine (albeit legally grey) nature. In fact they were practically semanticised out of existence by some pro-life elements. Look back at the most recent abortion debate and the sheer ignorance of most people about what did and did not happen in Irish hospitals. Now there is some level of clarity and a great deal of curiosity. On balance I don’t believe this interest was best served by running this story (and that’s assuming the act had even been in force). The stats at the end of the year would suffice.

  7. Am I Still on This Island

    The only way any medical procedure carried put should be in the news is if it has breached the law, or a patient was refused treatment. End if discussion

    1. curmudgeon

      You have a ridiculously naive view on this. Ground breaking life-saving operations are reported by the news all the time, the information is communicated by the HSE and Govt. and is considered excellent PR.

      1. Am I Still on This Island

        Are you naive enough to believe this is ground breaking or important medical news? It’s not these type of procedures are carried out daily in Irish hospitals

          1. pedeyw

            Why the parentheses? Are you implying that they have no ethics or just refusing to recognise them because they differ from yours?

          2. Pedanto

            You’re making a lot of sense above, curmudgeon, but you’re wrong here. Ethics have every place in medical treatment. How people came upon those ethics is their own business, and shouldn’t affect their acceptance or rejection.

          3. Pedanto

            Oh, I’m with you on all that. Awful people, with vile beliefs and practices. But there’s an ethos behind everything, and I’m not convinced that religion per se is the problem. I think the problem in Ireland is privilege, regardless of why it was granted.

            These are privileged religious ballcakes. We’ve had no shortage of other kinds of privileged ballcakes, and they’ve done their share of damage.

            Maybe I am being pedantic.

  8. rotide

    I love how the Times is ‘reprehensible’ for this but Bradley/Chelsea Manning is a hero for leaking far more dangerous information that puts people lives in jeapordy

    Full disclosure: I am of the opinion that Manning was right to do what he did, and that the times printed too much info, but that overall it was in the public interest to run the story.

    I just find it hillarious that the mob needs something to get the knickers twisted about.

    1. cluster

      Bradley/Chelsea did not put anybody’s life in danger. This has been accepted by the US authorities.

      1. Am I Still on This Island

        There is at least one, an Afghan national who aided the US military was murdered after his name was published in the manning files. This was disclosed at his trial.

    2. delacaravanio

      Er, how is this in the public interest?

      The dogs on the street know that maternity hospitals in Dublin have been carrying out abortions for years, but haven’t been categorising them as such because of the fear that doctors would face prosecution.

      The real story is that the Irish Times appears to be turning into a sensationalist rag.

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