Friday, December 19, 2014

Former Northern Ireland ombudsman Nuala O'Loan resigns from BMA Medical Ethics Committee over abortion law move

The Irish Catholic reports  that Baroness Nuala O’Loan has unexpectedly resigned from a prestigious medical ethics committee over the watchdog’s support for the extension of Britain’s abortion law to the North.

Baroness O’Loan told The Irish Catholic that she could not, in conscience, remain a member of the Medical Ethics Committee of the British Medical Association (BMA) as a result of the stance.

“I believe in the sanctity and sacredness of human life so I could not commit to anything inconsistent with that position. I felt I had no option but to resign,” she told The Irish Catholic.

The highly-regarded human rights lawyer and former Police Ombudsman was appointed to the committee in July, but was forced to step down after her first meeting when the committee favoured extending Britain’s controversial 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

Britain has one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the world and permits the termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks.

Britain, with 200,000 abortions each year, sees about one in five pregnancies end in abortion.

“I had to resign as I believe it is a flawed piece of legislation.

“I felt there was no scope for change even if I was to debate the decision,” Baroness O’Loan said.

The committee is made up of BMA members from a wide range of specialties and experience and lay members who are experts in their field of theology, law and moral philosophy.

The committee debates ethical issues on the relationship between the medical profession, the public and the state. It also liaises with the General Medical Council (GMC) on all matters of ethics affecting medical practice.

Baroness O’Loan said she was “disappointed” to have had to resign from the committee.

“I would have hoped to make a positive contribution to discussions particularly around end of life care and care of vulnerable persons. I just could not allow my name to be associated with this particular stance,” she said.

Mrs O’Loan’s decision comes as the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) announced plans to take the devolved government in Belfast to the high court over its re-fusal to liberalise the abortion law.