Most pregnant women who have suicidal thoughts and want an abortion will still go to England to have one even if the law is changed here, according to one of the country’s only perinatal psychiatrists.
Anthony McCarthy, who works in the National Maternity Hospital in
Holles Street, Dublin, also said that pregnant women presenting with
suicidal thoughts while pregnant is a rare event.
In an interview in
today’s Irish Times health supplement, Dr McCarthy said pregnant women
who are suicidal and want an abortion will not want to wait for the
judgment of medical professionals before making their decision.
expert group on abortion recommended that two psychiatrists and an
obstetrician should decide whether or not a pregnant woman’s suicide
threat is genuine before allowing her to have an abortion.
McCarthy said: “If a woman feels really suicidal in pregnancy and they
want to get rid of that baby, they are not going to come into me in
Holles Street. They are going to go to the UK. The circumstances in which this happens are rare. The circumstances are going to remain rare.”
Threats versus ideation
McCarthy said psychiatrists distinguished between suicidal ideation and
suicidal threats. Suicidal ideation means that somebody has an idea to
kill themselves and usually wants to get rid of those thoughts by
talking to somebody about it.
This is different, he says, from
suicidal intent where the person is actually planning to kill
themselves: professional help is essential in these circumstances. A
third scenario is where a person presents threatening to kill
themselves. They, in turn, feel threatened by their feelings and want
“Another person may say they will kill themselves unless
some specific thing happens. They are seeking a specific solution and
are telling us this deliberately, and this must be understood
differently again and assessed appropriately and professionally.”
McCarthy said psychiatrists were well trained to assess the genuineness
of a suicide threat.
The Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children
will begin three days of hearings into the abortion issue next Tuesday.
committee will hear contributions from medical practitioners, legal
experts, representatives of churches, religious groups and advocacy