Tag Archives: Dr Peter Boylan

From top: a National Maternity Hospital ownership protest last Saturday outside Leinster House; Dr Peter Boylan, former Master of the National Maternity Hospital

This morning.

Via Irish Times Letters:

I read with attention the letter signed by 42 of the current consultant staff at the National Maternity Hospital. One sentence that jumped out was that “all care within Irish law is currently being provided at Holles Street and will be provided at the new hospital”.

No one doubts the first part of the sentence, but it is the uncertainty about the second part which is a key factor in the current controversy.

My colleagues’ fears about misinformation are well-founded.

We are being asked to believe that the Religious Sisters of Charity’s successor company, St Vincent’s Holdings, is secular, while the Letter of Grant from the Vatican directed the Sisters explicitly to observe specified canon laws in setting up the company, and the constitution of that company retains the core values of the order. The directors are “obliged to hold the values and vision” of the order’s founder including that “the sanctity of life belongs to all persons from conception to their natural end”.

The extraordinary claims last week that abortions under the terms of the 2018 Act are performed at St Vincent’s Hospital must be verified. Under the terms of the Act, all abortions must be notified to the Minister for Health within 28 days, with information that includes the grounds for each abortion.

The national report for 2020 is due to be published by June 30th. The Minister must now confirm exactly how many abortions took place at St Vincent’s between January 1st, 2019 and May 31st, 2021 and under which grounds.

I do not believe that Archbishops Eamon Martin and Dermot Farrell can continue to remain silent about such serious claims, given the strict prohibition on abortion in every Catholic hospital around the world, except apparently St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin 4.

The NMH must shoulder a large part of the responsibility for the delays to the project.

First, the decision by the board to cede ownership of the hospital to the Sisters of Charity in 2016 caused public and political furore when it emerged in 2017, and led to the Sisters announcing their intention to transfer their shareholding in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.

Second, after repeated denials by the NMH that Vatican permission was required, it took until March 2020 before permission was in fact conditionally granted.

Third is the failure by the board of the NMH to submit an acceptable business case to Government. The first iteration appears to have been rejected by the Department of Public Reform and Expenditure in December 2020. My understanding is that a revised business case has yet to be submitted.

Following last week’s Social Democrats’ motion on the new hospital, which the Government parties did not oppose, there is now all-party political consensus that the new hospital will be fully State owned and built on State land.

A rally outside Leinster House last Saturday saw a broad range of civil society organisations oppose the current plan and call for full State ownership, including the National Women’s Council of Ireland.

The issue will at some point come before Cabinet, though much work remains to be done, not least the “double-checking” of the legal advice the Government has received to date, and the resubmission of Holles Street’s business case.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that ownership of the land is a red line for the Government and that there is “a risk” the project will not go ahead at Elm Park if the State does not own the land. In a series of thoughtful interventions Taoiseach Micheál Martin has noted that “he still has concerns about governance arrangements and that there could be no semblance or even perception of religious influence”.

Beyond the row about one hospital, the Taoiseach noted in the Dáil last week that “when the State is investing, the State should own”. Finally, I am at a loss to understand why my colleagues are resistant to State ownership. Surely that would give them the hospital they need and cast iron guarantees of medical and operational independence.

Dr Peter Boylan,

Dublin 6.

Irish Times Letters.

Yesterday: Hospital Pass


From top:  St Vincent’s Hospital; Dr Peter Boylan (left) Archbishop Eamon Martin

This morning.

Dr Peter Boylan writes:

[Irish Times Religious Affairs correspondent] Patsy McGarry reports that an unnamed canon lawyer believes that “there is nothing in the letter of grant” from Rome which could be seen as “a stipulation that church canon law, doctrine or teaching must be observed by St Vincent’s Holdings, or the proposed NMH”.

This opinion is baffling.

I too have seen the letter of grant of March 16th, signed by senior Vatican official Sr Carmen Ros Nortes. She states that the Vatican grants the transfer request by the Sisters of Charity “in conformity with the petition” and that, “The provisions relating to the validity and lawfulness of alienations, found in Canons 638-639 and Canons 1292-1294 of the Code of Canon Law and in Proper Law, are to be observed.”

This last sentence is emphasised in bold type in the communication.

Thus, everything the Sisters of Charity now do in respect of transferring their 100 per cent shareholding in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group to St Vincent’s Holdings CLG must observe canon law, specifically the canons cited and must be in conformity with the reasons they gave the Vatican for wanting to undertake the transfer.

In this respect, Canon 1293 is particularly relevant. Canon 1293.1.1. requires that the Sisters of Charity must have “a just cause, such as urgent necessity, evident advantage, piety, charity, or some other grave pastoral reason” to make the transfer.

Canon 1293.2. requires that “other precautions prescribed by legitimate authority are also to be observed to avoid harm to the Church”.

As a result of the Vatican stipulations, the problem now facing the Sisters of Charity is how to effect a transfer that brings 186 years of Catholic healthcare ministry to an end, the result of which will facilitate a hospital which will perform abortions and other procedures absolutely forbidden by Catholic teaching?

Where is the “just cause” and what is the potential for such approval to cause “harm to the church” in the eyes of the faithful?

No wonder many Irish Catholics are alarmed and confused.

In comments published in the Sunday Times over the weekend, Archbishop Eamon Martin stated that “the carrying out of abortions or morally illicit medical procedures at the NMH would be repugnant” to Catholic teaching and “regardless of the eventual outcome of the proposed transfer, the church will remain clear in its public statements that there is no place in a maternity hospital for abortion”.

How does Archbishop Martin reconcile Catholic teaching on abortion with his support for the Sisters’ request to the Vatican which will clear the way for St Vincent’s Holdings CLG to own a hospital in which abortion, IVF, elective sterilisation and other procedures will constitute part of the daily routine?

What does the Primate of All Ireland consider to be the “just cause” for this transfer? Is he concerned about harm to the church?

The constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, which will own the new NMH, will surely be subject to the provisions of the canon laws outlined in the letter of grant.

This is not a theoretical discussion. The taxpayers of Ireland who will fund the new NMH, and the women of Ireland who will attend it, deserve clarity.

None of the information currently in the public domain allays well-founded fears about the potential for Catholic ethos to influence clinical practice in the new NMH.

And all this before full consideration as to why even the Irish Government would hand ownership of a €500 million maternity hospital of key national importance to a private charity. – Yours, etc,

Dr Peter Boylan
Life Governor and former Master, National Maternity Hospital,
Dublin 6.

National Maternity Hospital and canon law (Irish Times Letters)

Last week: ‘The Makings Of A Very Irish Scandal’


From top: Dr Peter Boylan and Dr Meabh Ní Bhuinneain at Leinster House for the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Committee meeting yesterday; Dr Boylan at Newstalk this morning

This morning.

On The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.

Dr Peter Boylan, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and former master of the National Maternity Hospital, was interviewed.

It followed a vote last night by the Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment to remove the 8th amendment from the constitution.

It was the first vote taken by the committee – with 15 members voting Yes, three voting No and two members, Fianna Fail’s James Browne and Anne Rabbitte, abstaining.

Professor Boylan also addressed the committee yesterday evening.

Towards the end of the Newstalk interview, Mr Kenny read out some texts that came into the show.

‘A mother’s life is in danger: I was that mother, 27 years ago. At 24 weeks’ gestation, my blood pressure went through the roof. I had pre-eclampsia and toxaemia. My consultant contacted my husband and said he had to do a C-section and his exact words were ‘otherwise, we will lose your wife’. Unfortunately our little baby died.

Boylan: “Yes, and that’s exactly what happens. We would deliver a baby at 24 weeks and a full panoply of intensive care from the neonatal team would be instituted and I, all of us, practicing obstetricians, have experience with that sort of situation. That’s not a termination of pregnancy…”

Kenny: “Yeah, I was just going to say, that would actually be permitted, presumably, under the 8th amendment because there’s a distinct risk to the life of the mother and both will die, therefore, you make the choice to save one.”

Boylan: “But you’re also…no, not a choice to save one. You save the mother and, in the course of delivering a baby at 24 weeks, you make every effort to save that baby also and, nowadays, viability is regarded as 24 weeks in this country. So, that’s the situation.”

Kenny: “This one: ‘Peter Boylan is an ardent abortion campaigner. He fails to mention that the law in Ireland changed after Savita. The 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act gave absolute clarity to doctors that they can intervene to save the life of a pregnant woman, even at the cost of the life of the baby’.”

Boylan: “Well, the problem with the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is that there’s no guidance as to how sick a woman has to be and also the woman doesn’t have any input into that decision. We discuss everything with her obviously but, it’s, she can’t say ‘look I’m worried that I’m going to die’ and we say, ‘no, actually, you’re not really at risk of death, yet. When you get to be at risk of death, then we will intervene.’ Now that’s a highly unsatisfactory way to practice medicine.”

Kenny: “The law says that you have to wait until, in your judgement, there is…”

Boylan: “And if we get the judgement wrong, either the mother dies or we’ve committed a criminal offence in this country. That’s unfortunately the reality.”

Kenny: “So not only do you want the 8th repealed but you also want the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act changed?”

Boylan: “Well, if proper legislation is introduced then the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act would be just part of that legislation and we would be able to intervene, continue to intervene, but also for other reasons as the Citizens’ Assembly suggested.”

Kenny: “‘Professor Boylan has no advantage. Everybody knows Savita died of septicaemia via E.coli. Can Mr Boylan explain in detail how an abortion would have saved her?'”

Boylan: “She did die of sepsis and there’s no question that there were deficiencies in her care, I’ve never denied that, I’ve never tried to say that was not the case. Of course she died of septicaemia, she wouldn’t have got septicaemia if her uterus was empty and any practicing doctor knows that and anybody who claims otherwise is really not telling the truth.”

Kenny: “This one, Martin. ‘The 2013 legislation dealt with the Savita-type cases already, nothing to do with the 8th amendment.'”

Boylan: “Well, I mean anybody who has, any doctor who has read her chart, myself and [Sabaratnam] Arulkumaran, an internationally respected expert, have come to a different conclusion and the conclusion is, if she had had a termination of pregnancy, we wouldn’t even know her name, we wouldn’t know anything about her, she would be down in Galway, probably with a young family.”

Kenny: “‘Ask the professor, does he accept the figure of 100,000 lives saved by the 8th amendment.'”

Boylan: “No, I don’t. If we didn’t have easy access to termination of pregnancy in the UK, we would probably have an awful lot of maternal deaths and we would not have had any saving of any lives, at all.”

Kenny: “The committee you said was attentive yesterday but we know there was at least, there was, there were three people who voted against but two people in particular have been outspoken in their unhappiness with the committee and that’s Senator Ronan Mullen and Mattie McGrath TD. Do you anticipate that this will become as divisive and bitter as some of the previous campaigns have been?”

Boylan: “I think as the tide turns and as people see the logic and the reasonableness of repealing the 8th amendment and introducing legislation in this country, I think it probably will get quite nasty.”

Listen back in full here [Part 1]

Previously: Illegal Abortion In Ireland

17/04/2013. Enrollment of new solicitors in Blackhall Place. Pictured is the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, who has said the Master of the High Court has no authority to speak on behalf of the court or its judges. Mr Justice Kearns said concerns about judicial independence expressed by the Association of Judges were well founded and he hoped every effort would be made to address these concerns with a view to resolving them as soon as possible. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

17/05/2013. Health Committee on Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill. Dr Peter Boylan from the National Maternity Hospital, pictured arriving at Leinster House for the Health Committee hearings on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill that the Fine Gael Labour Party Government plan to introduce. Photo: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

From top: National Maternity Hospital chairman Nicholas Kearns; Dr Peter Boylan

A spokesperson from the hospital has clarified the reason Dr Boylan was asked by text to stand down from the board is that that is the means by which he chose to communicate on Sunday with the Deputy Chairman and the Master of the National Maternity Hospital.

In his text message to Mr Kearns and Dr Mahony Dr Boylan said:

“I’m sorry it’s come to this but I did try to warn you. The way out for both of you is to make it clear that you were misled by SVHG [St Vincent’s Health Care Group], you accepted their bona fides and assurances…Both of you and the Minister are inextricably linked in this and you will either sink or swim together. The way to get the hospital is to insist on CPO of Elm Park golf club land on periphery and establish links to SVH via tunnels/corridors. Minimal design alterations needed.”

Mr Kearns replied to Dr Boylan:

“Both the Master and I have received and read your text sent to us at 13.47 today.We are now asking for your immediate resignation from the Board of Holles St – both because of your public intervention to criticise and oppose the overwhelming majority decision of the Board taken in November last to approve the agreement reached with SVUH for the transfer of Holles St to Elm Park – a vote on which you abstained – and in addition because of the content of your text sent today. It’s intimidatory tone is most regrettable.

“The Board will clearly require to be briefed on Wednesday as to the contents of your text communication if your resignation as sought is not forthcoming.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Boylan told presenter Cathal MacCoille he would not resign.

Cathal MacCoille: “This call on you to resign followed not just the meeting, several meetings which discussed this proposal but, specifically, a text that you sent at the weekend, can you just tell us about that text? Who you sent it to? And what you said?”

Peter Boylan: “Yes, I was becoming increasingly concerned about the controversy that had erupted following Patsy McGarry revealing, in the wider public…”

MacCoille: “This is in The Irish Times?”

“The Irish Times, about a week ago now I think. And I was away when it was published. I only arrived back the next day, in the middle of the day to the furore that erupted. And I was becoming increasingly concerned that, as with the passage of time that the board members or the governors of the National Maternity Hospital, the shareholders had not been consulted about the deal which, one had the impression that it was completely agreed by the National Maternity Hospital. But I’d been assured, the board had been assured by the Deputy Chairman that the governors would be consulted and would take a vote on whether or not they agreed the deal.”

MacCoille: “Sorry, is there a difference between governors and board?”

Boylan: “Yes, there are 21 board members but there are 100 governors. So the shareholders had not agreed to the deal. So I was increasingly concerned about this. Originally, I was going to stay quiet until the meeting of the governors and raise the issues concerning, about my real concerns which I’d raised regularly at board meetings. I was getting kind of tired of it. And then the whole thing became public. And I was away and I was phoned, I got back, almost inevitably, by The Irish Times and I spoke to them and they said they would publish my comments the next day but Sister Agnes’s [Reynolds] intervention then took precedence.”

MacCoille: “Of the Sisters of Charity?”

Boylan: “Of the Sisters of Charity and she made it clear that in point of fact there was some doubt over whether or not the Catholic Church teaching would hold sway in the new maternity hospital and that was absolutely confirmed by Bishop Doran over the weekend and by a letter from the chairman of Ireland East [Hospital] Group Tom Lynch to the secretary general of the Department of Health some time ago warning that there would be ethical issues if the hospital was built on land…”

MacCoille: “Right. So. Sometime on Sunday, you sent a text.”

Boylan: “So, sometime on Sunday, I kind of felt, look, we need to sort this out and can we not sit down and talk about it and have some, there’s been call for calm heads and, you know, a lot of talk about misinformation which it transpires, actually, I was right. I wasn’t giving them misinformation…”

MacCoille: “Who..”

Boylan: “I sent a text..”

MacCoille: “To..”

“To Nicky Kearns, the deputy chairman and to Rhona Mahony, the Master. I said:

I’m sorry it’s come to this but I did try to warn you. The way out for both of you is to make it clear that you were misled by SVHG [St Vincent’s Health Care Group], you accepted their bona fides and assurances… Both of you and the Minister are inextricably linked in this and you will either sink or swim together. The way to get the hospital is to insist on CPO of Elm Park golf club land on periphery and establish links to SVH via tunnels/corridors. Minimal design alterations needed. Peter.

‘And just for the purposes, so people know the whole story. That’s what you sent, the text you sent to Nicholas Kearns and Rhona Mahony and you got a text back from Nicholas Kearns, saying, Peter, I have it here and they’re happy that we should read it out:

“Peter, both the Master and I have received and read your text sent to us at 13.47 today [Sunday]. We are now asking for your immediate resignation from the Board of Holles St – both because of your public intervention to criticise and oppose the overwhelming majority decision of the Board taken in November last to approve the agreement reached with St Vincent’s Hospital for the transfer of Holles St to Elm Park – a vote on which you abstained – and in addition because of the content of your text sent today. It’s intimidatory tone is most regrettable.

“The Board will clearly require to be briefed on Wednesday as to the contents of your text communication if your resignation as sought is not forthcoming.”

MacCoille: “First question arising obviously, are you going to resign?”


“Why not?”

Boylan: “I don’t feel I should resign. There’s been questions about loyalty to the board. I feel a loyalty to the women of Ireland. The function of the National Maternity Hospital is to offer care to the women of Ireland. To believe that by granting ownership of the hospital to the Roman Catholic Church and the company that is tasked with running the hospital to the Roman Catholic Church, to construct a board which four of nine members would have fundamental objections to a lot of activity going on in that hospital, just is not a runner. And then when Bishop Doran came out on Sunday and said – a great article by Justine McCarthy and full credit to her for getting that – that any land owned by the church is ecclesiastical property and subject to Canon Law and the governance rests with the Pope. Now this is 2017 in Ireland. I tried to say to the board many times, ‘look when this gets public, it’s not going to fly’ and also, it’s not right that a maternity hospital, of all hospitals should be granted to the Catholic Church.”

“When this decision, the terms of this agreement were approved by the board did you vote against it?

Boylan: “No, I abstained, it was clear from…”

MacCoille: “Why?”

“Well, it was clear, out of a sense of loyalty, I think to the Master and to the…”

MacCoille: “If you think, for the reasons just stated now, again, if they were your views, why didn’t you…”

“Well, maybe I should have voted against it but I kind of felt look, the thing is going to pass anyway because there was overwhelming support for it, there was only four people, not three, who objected and, importantly, the three previous masters had reservations and did not support it with a vote.”

Boylan refuses to stand down from National Maternity Hospital board (RTÉ)

Previously: Nun So Blind

File photo. The former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr. Peter Boylan, has joined the tens of thousands of people who have signed a petition objecting to the Sisters of Charity nuns having any role whatever with the new National Maternity Hospital, which is due to be built on the St Vincents Hospital Campus in Dublin. End. 17/04/2013. Inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar. Expert witness, Obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan pictured at Galway Coroners Court, sitting at Galway County Hall today for the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar. Photo: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

RhonaMahoney17/04/2013. Enrollment of new solicitors in Blackhall Place. Pictured is the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, who has said the Master of the High Court has no authority to speak on behalf of the court or its judges. Mr Justice Kearns said concerns about judicial independence expressed by the Association of Judges were well founded and he hoped every effort would be made to address these concerns with a view to resolving them as soon as possible. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland 

From top: The former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr. Peter Boylan; NMH chairman Nicholas Kearns  and From left: Kay Connolly, Chief Operating Officer of St Vincent’s Hospital, Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Dr Rhona Mahony Master, National Maternity Hospital with a model of St Vincents University Hospital.

This morning on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke the handover of the ownership of the National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity was discussed.

Rhona Mahony, Master of Holles Street, and Nicholas Kearns, chairman of the National Maternity Hospital defended the decision and addressed criticism from former Master of Holles Street Dr Peter Boylan

Sean O’Rourke: “The concern over the ownership and governance of the new National Maternity Hospital to be located at St Vincent’s Hospital at Elm Park, continues to grow. The new Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has said the hospital will have complete clinical, financial, budgetary and operational independence, however on Morning Ireland earlier, the former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Peter Boylan, said that in his view it’s inappropriate for the State to invest 300 million Euro of taxpayers’ money into a new maternity hospital that would have a strong religious influence.

With me now in studio are the current Master of Holles Street Dr Rhona Mahony and the Chair of the Hospital Board or he’s de facto the Chair, former President of the High Court Nicholas Kearns who both represented Holles St in the negotiations with St Vincent’s Hospital. Good morning to you both, you’re both very welcome to the studio. First of all, Mr Kearns, are you surprised by the controversy that has engulfed this move .. several weeks, a couple of months after it was announced?”

Nicholas Kearns: “Very surprised. In Holles Street we are surprised and disappointed in particular by Dr Boylan’s late intervention in such a public way in this whole matter, it’s very difficult for us to understand, he’s a serving member of the Board, a board which voted by an overwhelming majority to approve this agreement, this is in a sense nothing new, the idea of moving to the campus in Elm Park has been there since 2003, through all these years that followed Dr Boylan has been working in the hospital up to his retirement last year, the proposal has been there, nothing has been changed, when these latest round of negotiations began in 2016 we spent up to six months battling for exactly the kind of independence and safety of the ethos and practice of Holles St we could possibly obtain and we are satisfied and I am satisfied, Sean, as a lawyer that the arrangements we have put in place for independence are legally accurate and sound.”

O’Rourke: “And that agreement, has it been published?”

Kearns: “The full terms of it have not been published, this was an exercise conducted on a confidential basis throughout by [workplace mediator] Kieran Mulvey.”

“At this stage might help if the whole thing was published and put out there and people could decide.”

“In effect, the Minister has disclosed the key elements in these reserved powers and I was frankly surprised that people are not reassured by the binding nature of these reserved powers, can I just run through them quickly? Firstly, as one of the main objectives for the agreement it provides that under this arrangement the new company, the hospital in Elm Park, will provide a range of health services in the community as heretofore, such operation and provision to be conducted in accordance with the newly agreed clinical governance arrangements for the National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park by providing as far as possible by whatever manner and means from time to time available for the health happiness and welfare of those accepted as patients without religious or ethnic or other distinction and by supporting the work of all involved in the delivery of care to such patients and their families or guardians including research or investigation which may further such work. Now just very quickly the reserved powers and then I’ll stop.Continue reading →

17/4/2013 Inquests into the death of Savita Halappanavar

Dr Peter Boylan

“There are serious challenges when it comes to things like tubal ligation, IVF services, abortion, gender reassignment surgery, etc. None of these are allowed in Catholic-controlled hospitals around the world and it’s a puzzle as to why the nuns, or religious Sisters of Charity would want to be involved.

“I mean I can’t imagine them being comfortable with a hospital which is effectively under their control doing these sorts of things in one of their hospitals.”

Dr Peter Boylan, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the National Maternity Hospital and Chairman of Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, speaking on Morning Ireland this morning about the ongoing national maternity hospital row.

St Vincent’s Healthcare Group is refusing to allow an application for planning permission go forward to An Bord Pleanala until the Holles Street board agrees to come under its corporate governance structure.

Meanwhile, in today’s Ireland edition of the The Times, Justine McCarthy writes:

What really upset St Vincent’s have been the legitimate concerns raised in the media about a hospital group that is owned by an order of Catholic nuns taking control of the state’s national maternity hospital.

Historically, the church’s grip on women’s wombs has produced some of the tawdriest and most tragic scandals of the Irish state.

Think of the mass graves in Dublin’s High Park laundry and Tuam’s mother and baby home. Think of the mothers who had their pelvises sundered during symphysiotomy and the dying Savita Halappanavar being told she could not have her doomed pregnancy terminated because “this is a Catholic country”.

The Religious Sisters of Charity ran three of the Magdalene laundries covered by the McAleese report, which catalogued the systemic indentured servitude of pregnant girls and women, and which led to Enda Kenny’s apology in the Dail.

The nuns have refused to contribute to the state’s compensation scheme for the women. Meanwhile, St Vincent’s group receives over €200 million a year from the exchequer.

Listen back in full here

Hysterical women and the maternity hospital delay (The Times Ireland edition, Justine McCarthy)

Previously: ‘In The Interest Of Patient Safety’


Last night, Prime Time ran an item on TFMR (Terminations For Medical Reasons) with Katie Hannon revealing correspondence between the Master of the Rotunda Hospital Dr Sam Coulter-Smith and the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health highlighting safety concerns of women who travel to Britain for a termination and return to Ireland half-way through the procedure.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of The Life Institute described it “as abortion in the case of profound disability and the misinformation needs to be dealt with….where we’re talking about bringing in abortion because a child has a disability however profound.”

David McCullagh was then joined by Dr Peter Boylan of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street and solicitor Caroline Simons of the Pro Life Campaign for the inevitable FIGHT.

Watch in full here.

Abortion: Medical concerns over new trend (Susan Mitchell, Sunday Business Post)

Previously: “Bad Law Makes Hard Cases”

When Dr Boylan Met Dr Kiely

Dr Peter Boylan and Breda O’Brien: The Transcript

“Would He Prefer For Both Of Them To Die?”



17/4/2013 Inquests into the death of Savita Halappanavar

Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, Dr Peter Boylan (consultant obstetrician and former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street) has called for cross-party support to either repeal or retain the Eighth Amendment:

The vast majority of Irish women who seek abortions do so in the UK. This avenue should not be presumed to be available forever. Growing public awareness in Britain of the extent to which we are exporting our problem, as well as on-going financial constraints in the NHS, make it likely that British hospitals will increasingly restrict access to women from Ireland for termination.

Our current law is governed by the 1983 Eighth Amendment, which provides for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn. As we saw with the case of Savita, this has resulted in abortion being lawful only where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

Obstetricians find this difficult to interpret. Put simply, obstetricians have to decide how close to death a woman has to be before they can intervene and the woman herself has no say in the matter.

Psychiatrists have to assess the risk of suicide. In practice this really only applies to those who are not able to travel, the majority of whom are in the care of the state.

…I suggest that our politicians reach cross-party agreement, as soon as possible, that a referendum – whose sole issue should be the removal or retention of the Eighth Amendment – will be held at a specified date early in the term of the next government. Such political consensus would not bind parties to a particular stance on the referendum to follow, but would take much of the toxicity out of the issue of a referendum itself from the politics of the next general election campaign and lessen the kind of aggressive lobbying to which TDs have been subject in the past.

We can only hope thereafter for a mature, factual, and compassionate debate on this most difficult of subjects. In the meantime, bad law makes hard cases.

No country for vulnerable women (Dr Peter Boylan, Sunday Business Post) [behind paywall]

Previously: Dr Peter Boylan on Broadsheet

Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland


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!”

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Earlier: First Abortion Mystery

The Floodgates

(Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)