Irish Medical Organisation

Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013 - IMO President writes to Minister of Health to express concern about continued absence of clinical guidelines to accompany legislation

Thursday 9th January 2013. The President of the IMO President, Dr Matt Sadlier, has expressed concerns over the continued absence of any clinical guidelines to accompany the recently enacted Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 (PLDP Act). The IMO has written to the Minister for Health and requested that clinical guidelines are developed as a matter of urgency and that arrangements are put in place to support medical practitioners in the interim.

Dr Sadlier said it was “very regrettable” that the PLDP Act had been enacted without accompany clinical guidelines for psychiatrists and for GPs; “there are no guidelines available for psychiatrists who are expected to certify if there is a real and substantial threat to the life of a patient by suicide or for General Practitioners who may have to refer patients to secondary care services or to other colleagues.”

Dr Sadlier said “The aim of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 is to provide clarity to both women and medical practitioners; however in the absence of clinical guidelines, medical practitioners are faced with continued uncertainty.”

“Guidelines are even more important where cases are expected to happen rarely such as cases where there is a risk of loss of life from self-destruction. The guidelines could be critical to aid treating Psychiatrists as well as Psychiatrists participating in review panels.” said Dr Sadlier.

He said that guidance was also required for GPs in order to ensure appropriate and timely referral of patients who present with life threatening illness. In the event where a GP has a conscientious objection clear protocols are also required to ensure the timely referral of patients to an alternative practitioner.

“The aim of establishing clinical guidelines is to ensure that patients receive the most appropriate care, based on international best evidence. Recent cases have highlighted how failure to comply with best-practice guidelines can lead to the rapid deterioration of a patient’s condition and/or death. All the cases provided for by the legislation are rare and therefore guidelines are required to ensure safe, quality and timely care. “


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