Although often as an aside, I often hear myself pointing out to pro-choice proponents that matters of abortion and euthanasia place a great deal of power in the hands of doctors. Indeed more often than not, this power is over people who (quite understandably) aren’t in the best frame of mind at the time. The swift counter to this is usually an equally offhanded remark assuring us that doctors are professional folk who take every person, every appointment, on a case by case basis. While this might even happen in a perfect world, this simply isn’t the case in our world. For this reason I feel that this news points out something that folk should be aware of. Having an abortion might be one of the most difficult moments of a young woman’s life. A time where she needs plenty of unbiased advice and even more support from everyone around her. But for some doctors it is just another Tuesday, and the forms might well be signed already.
[Cross-posted from LifeSiteNews]
The head of the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC) has this week admitted that a drawn-out investigation into forged abortion documents has found almost 70 doctors guilty of pre-signing abortion forms without knowing anything about the women asking for abortions.
Chief Executive of the GMC, Niall Dickson, said that 67 physicians were acting “against the law” but insisted that, since no patients had come to harm as a result, no sanctions were to be imposed on the offenders, according to a Telegraph report.
Dickson refused to name the doctors or give any detail of their positions, but tried to reassure the public. “We do act where doctors are convicted,” he said, “but in these cases there were no prosecutions, let alone convictions.”
“The main issue for us, therefore, was how to bring this unlawful and unacceptable practice to an end,” he said, explaining that this was done by receiving the doctors’ assurance that they would no long pre-sign abortion forms.
“We demanded and obtained assurances from all the doctors identified in the inspections that they would no longer pre-sign these forms. We also made it clear that there would be severe consequences if doctors ignored our guidance in this area,” Dickson said.
“Inspections by the Care Quality Commission since that investigation took place have found that the practice has now stopped,” he concluded.
The government’s Care Quality Commission (CQC) began investigating the allegations of the illegal pre-signing of forms after a series of “stings” by the Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2012 caused outrage among some parliamentarians. It was revealed that abortion facilities were allowing women to abort because of the child’s sex, and found evidence of doctors pre-signing abortion forms in batches.
According to UK law, a woman who wants to abort her child must receive the signatures of two doctors, and give a reason recognized as one of the official grounds for abortion.
The Abortion Act 1967 requires a form (HSA1), certifying that the requirements for an abortion have been met, be signed by two doctors before the procedure takes place.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley responded to the revelation by launching a formal investigation by the CQC that revealed widespread flouting of the letter of the law.
The investigation found that staff at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, were using a box of forms that had been pre-signed by a doctor who no longer worked at the facility.
“This demonstrated evidence of a doctor either providing to others or knowingly allowing others, to use forms signed in advance by them or photocopied with their signature,” the CQC report said. “It also showed evidence of a doctor signing and/or dating a blank form in advance with a ground for abortion, without reaching an opinion in good faith.”
Dickson said that although the investigation found evidence of both illegal sex-selective abortion and pre-signing of forms, the matters were being dealt with separately.
“It is important not to confuse this matter of pre-signing of abortion forms with the separate cases where it is alleged that abortions were sanctioned on the basis of the gender of the fetus,” he said, according to the Telegraph. “We are actively investigating two such cases and have barred these doctors from any involvement with abortion while our inquiries are continuing.”
While Dickson has stated that no sanctions are forthcoming for the doctors found to be pre-signing abortion forms, a cross-party group of MPs has written to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police demanding a criminal investigation into the practice.
The MPs, who include Conservatives Therese Coffey and Mark Hoban and Labor’s Jim Dobbin wrote to Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe asking for an investigation into “the alleged criminal activity of 67 doctors.”
“As it is impossible to come to a medical judgment without knowing any of the details of a patient’s case, pre-signing is considered illegal,” the MPs’ letter states.
The letter quotes comments made by Health Minister Earl Howe, who told the Lords earlier this month that, “Forms being pre-signed is a clear breach of the law and if it is found to be happening, a prosecution should be brought.”
The signatories noted that, “Normally where criminal conduct is suspected of a doctor, the GMC’s fitness to practice panels will suggest a public hearing, enabling police involvement where appropriate. However, none of the cases of pre-signing were referred for public hearings, no serious internal disciplinary action was taken, and no information was passed on to the police for investigation.”
Signatory Frank Field, former Labor Work and Pensions Secretary, stressed that this is a case of upholding the law, regardless of the debate over whether abortion is right or wrong.
“The law is quite clear and until it is changed it should be complied with,” Field said.