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16 / 11 / 2007 - Doctor Under Investigation for Persuading Patients against Abortion
A doctor may be forced out of a job for helping women decide against abortion. Dr. Tammie Downes is under investigation for professional misconduct after she said in an interview with the Daily Mail that she had been instrumental in helping many women patients decide to continue to carry their children to term.
In the Daily Mail interview, Dr. Downes said she asked women in crisis pregnancies, “What would have to change to make you see things differently? What would help you to see this baby as good news and not bad news?”
For defying the abortion-ideology that prevails in the British medical establishment, Dr. Downes is under investigation by the General Medical Council and may lose the right to practice medicine. The Guardian newspaper reported that the investigation was begun after a complaint by “a practising doctor involved in the pro-choice movement” accused Downes of breaching the GMC`s Good Medical Practice Guidelines.
Downes responded that she had let her personal feelings about abortion influence her relationship with patients. She told The Observer, “I don`t try to persuade anybody. I give them the facts and allow them space to think through the decision that they are making. It has to be the mother`s choice. I have no right to make that choice for them.”
“But I do think it`s my duty as a doctor to help a woman make that choice,” she added. She said that about one third of women change their minds about abortion after seeing her.
The Guardian reports that Liberal Democrat MP, Dr. Evan Harris, Parliament`s most vigorous abortion-crusader, denounced Dr. Downes to Health Minister Dawn Primarolo and asked for an investigation. Harris, nicknamed “Doctor Death” by some MP`s for his support for abortion and euthanasia, told the Daily Mail, “By her own admission this doctor tries to persuade patients to go in one direction only and boasts of her `success` in a national newspaper.”
But Downes said, “It`s very sad if people feel threatened and not allowed to have free speech. Patients will lose out if doctors feel unable to discuss the pros and cons of an abortion with them.”
GMC guidelines tell doctors: “You must not unfairly discriminate against them by allowing your personal views to affect adversely your relationship with them or the treatment you provide or arrange.” The guidelines allow doctors to refuse to “carry out a particular procedure” or advice that conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs and does not insist that the doctor refer a woman seeking such procedures to another doctor. It says only, “you must explain this to a patient and tell them that they have the right to see another doctor.”
Dr. Downes told the Daily Mail, “People talk about being pro-choice as being pro-abortion, but I like to think I am pro an informed choice, which many women don`t always make.”
Meanwhile, with the backing of a significant portion of Britain`s doctors who no longer want to commit or even refer for abortions, a bi-partisan group of MP`s is preparing to argue in the House of Commons for lowering the age limit for legal abortions from 24 weeks gestation to 20.
Recent surveys have shown that one in five British said they use their right to conscientious objection to refuse to commit abortions and refer for them.
Dr. Downes said in May, “I felt surprised because my general perception of the world is that people are losing their moral compass somewhat, that convenience is the watchword we live by these days.”
“But at the same time I think doctors are starting to confront the fact that there is a conflict in the work we do. There we are, desperately trying to save the life of a premature baby born at 21-weeks-old in one hospital theatre, and then down the corridor there are women coming in to abort babies at up to 24 weeks. How can anyone say this makes sense?”