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Makarios hospital staff unwilling to terminate pregnancies (Updated)

The Makarios children's hospital in Nicosia

Only two out of eight anaesthesiologists at Makarios hospital are willing to participate in abortions, it emerged on Monday, following a complaint that a woman was forced to endure for five days what should have been a two-day procedure. MPs requested a disciplinary investigation into the incident.

The woman,40, who remained anonymous, spoke to Politis about her experience at Makarios hospital of having a termination in the fifth month of pregnancy, after down’s syndrome was detected in the foetus she was carrying.

Examining the issue of women’s health and reproductive rights at the House human rights committee on Monday, MPs heard that out of eight anaesthesiologists at the hospital only two are willing to participate in abortion procedures, and it was the reluctance of some of them that caused the woman’s protracted procedure.

Because of the shift system operating in the hospital and that some doctors refused to carry out the procedure she was five days in the hospital.

This is despite the fact that approximately two weeks ago the anaesthesiologists had sent a letter to the committee saying that they would all participate under certain conditions.

The anaesthesiologists said they will only be party to a termination under three conditions – if the pregnancy is the result of abuse (up to 19 weeks), if the embryo has any abnormalities (up to 23 weeks), and if the life of the pregnant woman is at risk.

On Monday, Akel MP and committee head Irene Charalambides said that there should be a disciplinary investigation into the anaesthesiologists refusing to participate in abortions.

“It is sad in a country that wants to be seen as European that women experience such situations,” Charalambides said about the woman’s tale.

She called on the state health services organisation (Okypy) to conduct a disciplinary investigation into the anaesthesiologists.

The committee as such requested that the woman’s ordeal be officially filed and reported on by Okypy and Makarios hospital.

Charalambides said that they want a written report as to the responsibilities of the anaesthesiologists involved and how they will be punished.

“We want a written report, which we will share both to the health ministry and the ombudswoman to handle the matter,” Charalambides said, adding that she will advise the patient to take legal action against Makarios hospital and the state.

She also asked Okypy to prepare and print a form in relation to the documented procedure and protocol followed for abortions, which will be available in all hospitals for any woman who wants to have an abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Joanna Gregoriou said that the ministry was not aware of the letters submitted to the committee on the matter of abortions.

However, she stressed that the bottom line is that a woman’s right to abortion must be guaranteed and that Okypy should take the necessary steps to ensure this.

The deputy director of the Gynaecology and Obstetrics Clinic of Makarios Hospital, Nafsika Lepoura said that no official complaint has been lodged, but admitted that there was an incident in which some anaesthesiologists refused to administer anaesthesia.

The Okypy representative Konstantinos Kouridis said that there was no information from the hospital, adding that they will request an investigation.

He also stressed that it is not acceptable at Okypy to use religious beliefs as a justification for a negative attitude.

Women cannot be denied abortions in Cyprus, if there is a medical reason, which in the woman’s case from Saturday there was, as the doctors she visited could not reassure her that the child would be able to be independent and live without medical care, due to the genetic abnormality.

There are two laws in Cyprus that operate on the matter of abortions, one allows women to receive an abortion on demand before the 12th week of pregnancy, but the other allows doctors to refuse to perform the procedure.

According to the law in Cyprus as updated in 2018, women can get abortions up until the 12th week of their pregnancy on demand, and until the 19th week in cases of rape or incest.

After the twelfth week, conditions must be met. This includes saving the mother’s life, to protect the woman’s physical or mental health, or a foetal abnormality.

Also weighing in on this matter following the committee meeting, Disy MP Rita Superman said that the majority of the anaesthesiologists at Makarios Hospital are refusing to participate in terminations even before the 12 weeks, when it is legal for a woman to get an abortion on demand.

She said that this, however, is not illegal as the doctors also have the right to refuse.

What she said needs to be done is to have a mechanism from Okypy to deal with the situation.

 

 

 

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