Lachlan de Crespigny’s Posts

Whom Should We Refuse to Treat? Pregnant Rape Victims? Surrogates?

By Lachlan de Crespigny and Julian Savulescu

An emergency centre doctor working in Germany has claimed 2 nearby catholic hospitals refused to accept a rape victim who needed treatment, in case she was pregnant  . This was allegedly in line with their ethics committee’s policy to refuse to examine sexual assault victims in an effort to avoid future treatments such as the morning after pill coming into conflict with the hospital’s catholic ethos. The hospitals claim this was a misunderstanding and await an internal inquiry.

The Catholic Church does not support abortion and includes the morning after pill as an abortifacient. It is in violation of Catholic (ethical) standards. The doctor making the claims says that Cologne’s Cardinal Meisner had been consulted.

The Catholic Church insists life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his or her existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person. But in this case, they did not only deny the rape victim access to legal contraceptives, they refused to treat or examine her in any way for any of the resulting injuries of the rape. They did not treat her in her hour of need as a person who deserved the utmost care.

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The Continuing Tragedies of Home Birth and the Rights of the Future Child

By Lach De Crespigny and Julian Savulescu

Windsor Coroner’s Court has heard that a mother died within hours of giving birth at home after a private midwife committed a horrifying catalogue of errors . According to reports, the woman had previously delivered twins by emergency caesarean section, one of which later died. Her husband said his wife was ‘brainwashed’ into having a home birth by the midwife, who insisted it was safe. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advise delivery in hospital after caesarean section so that an emergency caesarean delivery can be carried out if necessary. The midwife denied trying to persuade the couple to have a home birth. However she has greater responsibilities than this; as professionals we should try to persuade women to deliver in hospital if this is a safer option. But the midwife seems to have prioritized homebirth over life itself when she reportedly stated:

“Claire had a great pregnancy, she had a really lovely spontaneous birth at home and I hope Simon in time will remember that”

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Who wants to be an abortionist?

By Lachlan de Crespigny

Dr. Evan James never wavered in his determination to become an abortion provider. But he is unusual – few trainee doctors have a driving ambition to become abortionists. The U.S. has seen a 40 per cent drop in the number of doctors who perform abortions since the early 1980s. Those in the field say there's likely a similar trend in Canada. Few Canadian hospitals provide abortions and numbers are dropping. Other countries, including Australia, have similar service provision problems.

Abortion is lawful in at least some circumstances in almost all western countries. Yet most have too few providers and current providers are aging with few replacements coming through.

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Survey on community attitudes on early and late abortion

Do Australians’ believe that women should be able to access abortion later in pregnancy? A new survey (Australian attitudes on access to early and late abortion. Lachlan de Crespigny, Dominic Wilkinson, Thomas Douglas, Mark Textor, Julian Savulescu MJA 2010; 193: 1-4) of 1050 Australians published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows that the answer is overwhelmingly yes; when there is good reason. These results have broad implications in both Australia and elsewhere.

The survey gives a detailed picture of attitudes in a wide range of clinical and social situations using personalized questions.

The findings contradict a previous Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations survey that suggested that Australians strongly oppose women accessing later abortion. They also contradict some data in surveys from UK, Europe generally and USA (also here). Surveys have tended to be simple yes/no polls asking impersonal non-contextualised questions. Contextualised personal survey questions in other countries may also show greater support for women being able to access late-abortion. The findings are relevant to calls – including from Prime Minister David Cameron –to further limit the gestational limits for abortions in UK.

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Australians support women’s access to late abortion


by Lachlan de Crespigny, Thomas Douglas, Mark Textor and Julian Savulescu

Regular calls to limit numbers of abortions are a familiar cry. Yet people are outraged if a friend or family member with a serious complication in much wanted pregnancy reluctantly requests an abortion but encounters resistance. Or when a woman faces a criminal court, as will happen to Tegan Leach next month in Queensland.

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Court compels woman to go to bed

Jacob M Appel writes in the Huffington Post  that Samantha Burton was 25 weeks pregnant when she ruptured her membranes and started contractions. There was a risk of infection and premature birth, risking her health and the life of her unborn child. It could also risk the health of her future child who may survive but be disabled.                                                                                                             
Burton was ordered rest in hospital for the remainder of her pregnancy. She wanted to go home but wasn't allowed to leave.

The hospital successfully went to court forcing Burton to comply. 

Three days later she had an emergency cesarean, but the baby was stillborn.

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Of Mothers and Fetuses and Abortionists

Two recent articles highlight the powerful influence that language has over the way people think. Word choice is at the centre of an article about USA ‘abortionist’ Warren Hern . He hates the word abortionist: ‘the opponents of abortion have turned it into a degrading and demeaning word that has the same negative connotations as the most despicable racial epithet’.

But the author argues that it is the right word, an accurate word, and our discomfort with it is only a measure of how poisoned the language of abortion has become. The article does not refer to Hern by his name but uses the poisoned word, the ‘abortionist’, ignoring both the normal convention referring to people the way they want plus Hern’s abhorrence of the word. This produces an accusatory tone that suggests that the author is antagonistic towards Hern, although other that name calling the author does not seem unsupportive of him. Perhaps the author is expressing his mixed feelings. 

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Will Down syndrome disappear?

There are concerns about the impact of the improving accuracy and availability of low risk cheap prenatal tests such as for Down syndrome (DS). Introduction of a noninvasive maternal serum test is expected that might provide a definitive diagnosis of DS in the first trimester at no risk to the fetus. The authors report that the tests should be virtually universally available and allow privacy of decision making. The authors ask whether the new tests will decrease the birth incidence of DS even further. Indeed, might there be no more DS children born? If so, is that a problem?

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Prenatal sex selection – When prenatal testing can threaten social harmony

China has an imbalance in the sex ratio resulting from selective abortion of female fetuses. Predictions that it may result in social disharmony are eventuating sooner than expected – but the problem is different to the one that was anticipated. Stolen girls have become increasingly valuable commodities in a cruel trade. A 2½ girl is feared kidnapped after she went to the shop around the corner. She vanished; her heartbroken mother and father fear she was kidnapped (1).

As many as 20,000 children and young women are reported kidnapped every year. This is said to be increasing. Only a handful of cases are solved. Many girls are bought by farmers who want wives for their young sons when they come of age, or by men who want a child bride without a dowry. Police raided one village & found that babies were being raised for sale and families were acting as brokers for other peasants who wanted to sell off “surplus” infants (1). 

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Abortion for Fetal Abnormality?

Abortion remains a crime for most Australians. Laws are inconsistent between states. In contrast, long ago the UK Abortion Act 1967 repealed and replaced its antiquated legal statutes on which much of Australian abortion law is still based.

The government in the state of Victoria asked the Law Reform Commission to provide legislative options to decriminalize abortion. Law reform is expected later this year.

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