Woman with cancer forced to travel for abortion

A woman who is terminally ill has claimed she was forced to travel to Britain for an abortion earlier this year.

She was advised by her doctors to terminate her pregnancy because of the risks to her health. However, an ethics forum at Cork University Hospital decided against sanctioning an abortion for her in Ireland.

Michelle Harte of Co. Wexford said that doctors at the hospital where she was being treated for cancer had advised her to terminate her pregnancy because of the risks to her health.

However, the ethics forum went against the medical advice on the basis that that Michelle Harte of Co Wexford's life was not under immediate threat.

Ms Harte, who is from London, said her condition deteriorated when she was waiting for an abortion and was not able to receive cancer treatment at that time due to her pregnancy.

She said the delay in accessing an abortion could have made her condition worse.

Ms Harte said she received excellent care from from doctors at CUH. but said she was frustrated at what happened to her and and wanted to ensure no other women had to go through her experience.

The CUH ethics forum is made up of medical and non-medical members.

According to the HSE's website, the CUH ethics forum was founded in 2002 and "exists to facilitate patients, their families and carers and members of the hospital staff in discussing matters of ethical concern. The Forum has an important role to play in educating staff on decision-making in a hospital setting where staff can be confronted with difficult ethical issues."

The HSE said the Ethics Forum meets within 48 hours for emergency meetings and carefully considers any case broight before it in the light of the Irish Constitution and amendments to it.

However, it would not reveal the names of the people serving on the Forum, but said it was made up of "medical and non-medical people from a wide spectrum including people with legal, theology and philosophy backgrounds and a member of the public, all of whom volunteer their time"

"The Forum was set up in acknowledgement of ethical difficulties that arise from time to time for patients, their families and hospital staff," a HSE South spokesperson said.

The European Court of Human Rights last week ruled that Ireland had breached the human rights of another woman with cancer who had to leave Ireland to get an abortion.

See also 'Time for the Church to move out of healthcare?'

Read more about the European Court of Human Rights abortion decision here


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