THE DOCTOR WHO TOLD THE CHURCH TO BACK OFF. . .
DR PETER Boylan, who qualified from University College Dublin in 1974, is the current chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He was a Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist in Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital before retiring from his role in December 2016 and served as its Master from 1991 to 1998.
As chair, Dr Boylan is responsible for overseeing all matters of the institute with the support of the executive council and all of the institute’s committees.
He represents the institute on the RCPI council and also on other national and international bodies.
A Dublin native, Dr Boylan worked in hospitals in the UK and US and has travelled all over the world delivering lectures.
He has been critical of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws and was an expert witness at the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar who died from septic shock in October 2012, seven days after entering hospital. The Indian dentist was 17 weeks’ pregnant and miscarrying when she was admitted to University Hospital Galway.
She was told the unborn baby would not survive.
As a result, she asked for a termination, but was refused on the grounds that a foetal heartbeat was present.
At her inquest in 2013, Dr Boylan claimed doctors faced a catch-22 dilemma in trying to save her life.
He said women in Ireland have ‘no input’ into their care, unlike other countries where a termination would be offered during a potentially non-viable pregnancy.
He also said: ‘There are no guidelines on what the risk is, so obstetricians in Ireland are working in a vacuum, and so, unless the mother is going to die, we are on very sticky ground,’ he said.
‘The real problem was the inability to terminate prior to Ms Halappanavar developing a real or substantive risk to her life. too ‘By late that to time, save it her was life.’ effectively
Prior to this and following the public outcry over Savita’s death, Dr Boylan said the situation is ‘like a sword of Damocles’ hanging over medical professionals.
At an Oireachtas hearing into the Protection Of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013, he called for strong legislation.
‘We are left on an ad-hoc basis when it comes to termination of pregnancy in order to save the life of the mother,’ he said. ‘This is a wholly unsafe, and I believe, unreasonable situation to expect doctors to operate in.’
Dr Boylan also sat on the Government’s expert group to advise on abortion law.
Under the Protection of Life During wherereal and can Pregnancythey substantialcarry believeout Act risk abortionsthere2013, to doctorsis the a life threatof theof suicide. mother, including the warnedIn Augustthe Church 2013, to Dr stop Boylanmeddling in women’s health, in response to Fr Kevin Doran, who sat on the board of directors at the Mater Hospital, and said the hospital ‘cannot comply’ with the new abortion legislation. He said: ‘They need to back off and leave it to the doctors. It’s absolutely intolerable that a hospital would deny somebody life-saving treatment in the 21st century.’ Dr Boylan is related, through marriage, to the master of Holles Street Dr Rhona Mahony.
Married: Former Holles St master Dr Peter Boylan and wife Jane