Cape Times

Terminatio­n of pregnancy

WMA revises advice it previously offered


THE World Medical Associatio­n (WMA) has revised its advice on medically indicated terminatio­n of pregnancy, allowing for a qualified healthcare worker, not just a physician, to perform an abortion in extreme cases.

At its annual General Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland, the WMA reiterated that, where the law allows medically indicated terminatio­n of pregnancy to be performed, the procedure should be carried out by a competent physician.

However, the body agreed that, in extreme cases, it could be performed by another qualified healthcare worker. An extreme case would be a situation where only an abortion would save the life of the mother and no physician was available, as might occur in many parts of the world. This amends previous WMA advice from 2006, that only physicians should undertake such procedures, in efforts to ensure that no woman is harmed because medically-indicated terminatio­n of pregnancy services are unavailabl­e.

WMA president Leonid Eidelman said the revised policy was part of the WMA’s procedure to review all policies that are 10 years old.

“As the document says, terminatio­n of pregnancy is a medical matter between the patient and the physician. But attitudes toward terminatio­n are a matter of individual conviction and conscience that should be respected,” Eidelman said.

“A situation where a patient may be harmed by carrying the pregnancy to term presents a conflict between the life of the foetus and the health of the pregnant woman. Different responses to resolve this dilemma reflect the diverse cultural, legal, traditiona­l and regional standards of medical care throughout the world and the revised policy recognises this fact,” he added.

The policy adds that patients must be provided with necessary medical and psychologi­cal treatment along with appropriat­e counsellin­g if desired.

The Assembly reaffirmed its view that physicians should continue to have a right to conscienti­ous objection to performing an abortion, while ensuring the continuity of medical care by a qualified colleague.

The preamble to the revised policy states: “Medically indicated terminatio­n of pregnancy refers only to interrupti­on of pregnancy due to health reasons, in accordance with principles of evidence-based medicine and good clinical practice. This Declaratio­n does not include or imply any views on terminatio­n of pregnancy carried out for any reason other than medical indication”.

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