Interesting to note Ann Furedi\’s concerns

BPAS chief executive Ann Furedi said she was appalled that the media had been told about the latest inspections before the clinics.

She said: \”Abortion doctors provide an important service to women who are often in difficult circumstances.

\”Their work is already intensely scrutinised, with clinics regularly inspected by the Care Quality Commission.

\”Mr Lansley says he is shocked and appalled by the practices he has uncovered.

\”BPAS is shocked and appalled that Mr Lansley has found it necessary to inform journalists of alleged breaches of the abortion law before he has informed those responsible for providing the services that have been investigated, and before the investigation is concluded.\”

Quite, how appalling that the hoi polloi might be informed that people are breaking the law as they kill people.

Come along now, we all know what we\’re really doing here, running a production line operation to hoick the little \’uns out, but really, telling the truth about such matters really isn\’t on. Why, if told the details some might even oppose what is going on and we can\’t have that, can we?

19 comments on “Interesting to note Ann Furedi\’s concerns

  1. And is against the law for a woman to tell the two doctors her reasons are real and valid when all she is really wanting is an on-demand abortion? And how is that going to be policed?

  2. “Their work is already intensely scrutinised…”

    Really? Clearly, then, those doing the scrutinising need to be looked at in greater depth, eh?

  3. What baffles me about this story is that I thought it was common knowledge that the law was routinely flouted, skirted or otherwise bent when it comes to abortion; but that abortion is so politically toxic that no-one ever really goes near it.

  4. “I am shocked and appalled to learn that some clinics – which look after women in what are often difficult circumstances – may be allowing doctors to pre-sign abortion certificates. This is contrary to the spirit and the letter of the Abortion Act.”

    I don’t believe he’s shocked. And it’s not contrary to the “letter of the Abortion Act”: the Act doesn’t mention signatures: it empowers the Minister of Health to determine how the doctors’ opinions should be registered.

    When agents of the government uncover evidence of criminal wrongdoing, is it always appropriate for the Minister involved to tell the press? Isn’t there some danger of prejudicing a criminal investigation?

  5. This might be helpful here:

    http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2012/03/23/lansley-full-of-shit-as-usual/

    “The Bourne judgement set an important legal precedent which allows doctors to perform abortions in limited circumstances however the risk of prosecution remained a very real threat if it could be argued that doctor had been too lax in their interpretation of the threat that the continuation of a pregnancy posed to a pregnant woman when they performed an abortion, prompting doctors to adopt the practice of obtaining a second opinion as defence against this threat.”

    “If, as is being alleged, some doctors have been pre-signing their ‘second signature’ on abortion consent forms it only because they recognise the ‘two doctor rule’ for what it is, an archaic medico-legal fiction which serves no useful purpose, a fact that appears to be entirely lost on Andrew Lansley.”

  6. PaulB and Niels – so, the fact that doctors have been deliberately side-stepping an important safeguard set into the act to prevent just this state of affairs is to be ignored, because, well, Lansley smells, innit?

  7. Niels,

    And how is she supposed to do that? Chez Unity has been off-line most of the day:

    Website Offline, No Cached Version Available

    The website you are trying to access is currently offline. The most likely causes are the server is down for maintenance, there may be a network problem, or the site may be experiencing excessive load.

    Although you can get the earlier “The Return of the Infanticide Debate” on cache through Cloudflare.

    Although, looking at it another way, if I was being accused of a serious crime (either directly or vicariously as an employer), I would like to find out about it directly or even through a ministerial statement in the House, rather than via the Press Association. That was a very Blair trick.

  8. @ Niels
    I, too, have read it (JuliaM’s comments implies that she had before posting).
    Firstly, pre-signing blank forms is false testimony (saying that the doctor has examined a patient when he/she has not done so). Lansley is entitled to be shocked. Would you like it if a doctor pre-signed a blank form to which your name was subsequently added certifying that he had examined you and that it was essential to amputate both your legs and your genitals?
    Your (and his/her/their) idea seems to be that the government should ignore any law that you do not like. Even Orwell’s Ministry of Truth didn’t do that – it just rewrote history.

  9. Tim,

    I have some sympathy for Furedi’s complaint here.

    When I was researching the DWP’s idiot ‘lie detector’ trials I sent FOI requests to the local authority trial site, several weeks after the midpoint of the trial, asking for their first six months of trial data.

    Of the council’s that replied, most cited the ‘due for publication’ exemption as grounds for knocking back my request but all three Scottish councils (Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen) refused to provide any data on the grounds – so the claim – that releasing preliminary figures before the end of trial would prejudice the trial.

    (Only two councils actually sent me any data and, interesting, one of these had its data excluded from the DWP’s final figures, which I got via FOI at the end of the trial – in fact it was that FOI request that forced them to publish their results)

    From that standpoint, I think Furedi’s complaint has some merit given that the state’s general attitude to informing the ‘hoi-polloi’ is ‘only when it suits us’.

  10. One thing that puzzles me in all of this – why are doctors not prosecuted regularly for their failure to keep to the law as defined by the 1967 act?

    We all know that we have abortion on demand, and that this is because doctors will say “risk to health of continuing with the pregnancy is too great” when it clearly isn’t. Why aren’t there regular prosecutions of doctors for making false declarations? I’m sure there are plenty of women who have had social abortions and regretted them who would be willing to bring such cases.

    Surely, if doctors were to be prosecuted for breaking the law (as they currently are), then getting social abortions would rapidly become impossible…?

  11. They’re not prosecuted because they’re not in breach of the law. Your quotation “risk…is too great” is not in the Act.

    The most common reason for certification of an abortion is:

    that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family

    Since the risk to health of termination is very slight, this is a very weak condition. Many doctors would judge that the risk to physical health from full-term pregnancy and childbirth is always greater than the risk to physical health of a reasonably early termination.

  12. Would you like it if a doctor pre-signed a blank form to which your name was subsequently added certifying that he had examined you and that it was essential to amputate both your legs and your genitals?

    You appear not to have understood what, exactly, some doctors are alleged to have presigned, which is the second opinion, not the primary consent form.

    As such, your ‘what if?’ secnario is nothing more than a non sequitur.

    Your (and his/her/their) idea seems to be that the government should ignore any law that you do not like.

    No – my idea is that there is no useful purpose to be served by a government seeking to enforce a law which, itself, serves no useful purpose.

    This is :-

    a) far from unusual – over time soem law do become outdated and obsolete and these often fall into disuse long before they are finally repealed and removed from statute. This is one of the reasons why the Law Commission exists, to run the rule over the statute books and identify obsolete and disused laws which can recommended to Parliament for repeal.

    b) a concept with which Tim is entirely familiarly as I have absolutely no doubt that he could happily suggest any number of laws and regulations that he feels are not worth the bother of enforcing because they serve no useful purpose.

    Why aren’t there regular prosecutions of doctors for making false declarations? I’m sure there are plenty of women who have had social abortions and regretted them who would be willing to bring such cases.

    I suspect that I would enjoy seeing a prosecution mounted in precisely those terms as it would present as gilt-edged opportunity to set a legal precedent which nullified the ‘two doctor’ rule.

    Again, you appear not to have understood that the issue here relates to the signature on the second opinion, not the primary opinion of the doctor who actually dealt with the patient face to face.

    As such, the defence in such a case would be that the second doctor had absolutely no reason to believe that the first doctor would act negligently in signing off the abortion certificate and could not, therefore, be held culpable for the patient’s change of heart, after the fact, when they had in fact consented to the procedure at the time.

    Really, are you seriously trying to suggest that doctor’s should be liable after the fact for acting on their patient’s express wishes, just because the patient decided, in hindsight, that they’d made the wrong decision at the time?

  13. @ Unity
    I understand that a doctor is signing a blank form to authorise an operation on an unknown person. So my “what if” is not a non sequitur.
    PaulB has linked to the form – try reading it

  14. PaulB

    The doctors who pre-signed are in breach of the law. Reading the certificate it is clear that the doctor does not need to see/examine the patient to form the opinion, but that “each practitioner is of the opinion formed in good faith that at least one and the same ground mentioned in paragraph (a) to (d) of section 1(1) of the Act is fulfilled”.

    So a doctor can be verbally consulted by a colleague and then agree without seeing the patient, but in no way can a pre-signed form indicate that he has formed the opinion in “good faith”.

    Whether the opinion is a pro forma one or not, the legal duty is clear – one can imagine cases where a good second opinion might dissent even just after being given the case history.

    Critically, abortions done on an emergency basis – those under article 1.4 of the Abortion Act (which is certificate B in your link) can be done with the authorisation of a single doctor.

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1967/87/section/1

    The fact that BPAS has regularly flouted the law is either

    1) an indication that the law is out of date and should thus be changed.
    2) an indication that BPAS and others have been cavalier in their approach to the law.

    Is an abortion something that should require only a single medical opinion? The assumption given is that difficult cases are subject to proper second opinions, but given the legal requirement and the flouting of the law, BPAS are, at the least, technically in the wrong. The “good faith” requirement is a solid one, and which would suggest that doctors who pre-signed are in breach of their obligations as doctors.

    Would the law be better if it gave more leeway to doctors – a single opinion being sufficient given known medical conditions? Possibly. But, that is a decision for the executive and the legislature. Given the relatively recent reviews of the statutory instrument, I suspect that any legal interpretation would go against that of BPAS.

  15. “Really, are you seriously trying to suggest that doctor’s should be liable after the fact for acting on their patient’s express wishes, just because the patient decided, in hindsight, that they’d made the wrong decision at the time?”

    Under the 1967 act I can imagine that being the case. If the women turns up, says ” I want an abortion cos a baby would be inconvenient right now”, then if the doctors response is “tell me it having the baby would give you mental heath issues” then as I understand he has just broken the law. The same probably also goes if the woman says she will have mental health issues, and he has good reason to believe otherwise…

  16. @John77

    no, you’re still missing the point – I would still have to agree to have my legs and genitals removed, and my GP would have to provide the primary signature before anything would happen.

    As far as I can see the fact that the second opinion can be provided without a further exam makes the process almost meaningless. If the primary doctor is confident an abortion is appropriate, what chance is there that anything will come up in the discussion that raises fresh doubt?

    As for your Orwell reference, that just makes no sense at all. Doctors are not ‘the government’, and it’s your assumption that the law is being breached because doctors ‘don’t like’ it.

    I do agree it is inappropriate to pre-sign forms like this, and that those who have done so should be taken to task over it. But I don’t agree that this is some vital failsafe without which doctors will be hoicking little ‘uns out without so much as a by-your-leave. Happy to be convinced otherwise, as always, but the article Tim has linked to offers nothing to this effect.

    On the other hand, we have an ongoing police investigation into three doctors who have allegedly been aborting based on gender. If true, then if one’s out playing golf there’s still enough to fill in the form.
    We also have the spot checks carried out this week, and still ongoing according to the article. As I said, the pre-signing shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet, but to go to the press without giving the clinics a chance to respond, or even wait for the final stats (may be higher, may be lower, adjust according to your level of cynicism about government investigations) on a topic as sensitive and inflammatory as this is just fear-mongering and shit-stirring. So yeah, JuliaM, Lansley does smell.

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