- Trying to square the circle
The opening days of the Synod on the Family have revealed distinct differences of opinion between the participants. How can their commitment to church teaching be matched with compassion for those who struggle with it?
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The practice by doctors of signing abortion forms before knowing details about the women involved has been branded illegal by the head of the General Medical Council (GMC), adding to pressure for a police investigation.
The GMC admission came after an investigation by the Care Quality Commission found that abortion forms had been pre-signed by 67 doctors.
Revelations about the practice last week led eleven MPs to demand a criminal investigation in a letter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.
The GMC has said that it will not act against the doctors in question. But the organisation’s chief executive, Niall Dickson, this week said that the doctors allegedly involved were acting “against the law” and vowed to “bring this unlawful and unacceptable practice to an end.”
A number of Catholic MPs signed the letter including Liam Fox, Therese Coffey and Mark Hoban, Jim Dobbin and Robert Flello.
Mr Flello, is chairman of the Catholic Legislators Network and Mr Dobbin, co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group.
“As it is impossible to come to a medical judgment without knowing any of the details of a patient’s case, pre-signing is considered illegal,” the letter said.
Under the 1967 Abortion Act, abortions can be granted if two doctors agree that the physical or mental health of the child or the woman is under threat.
Mr Dickson said that the most recent inspections by the Care Quality Commission showed that the practice of pre-signing abortion forms is no longer taking place.
“This is a highly controversial aspect of medical practice and much has changed since the current law was passed,” he added. “Dealing with that must be a matter for parliament and society. Our role is to make sure that doctors understand what is expected from them in delivering good care and that they work within the law.”