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Top expert says that legislating for X would be 'logistical nightmare' for psychiatrists

The Chairman of the Irish Association of Suicideology has said that legislation based on the X case would create a ‘logistical nightmare’ for psychiatrists if implemented.

Dr Justin Brophy, a consultant psychiatrist with Wicklow Mental Health Service made his comments an interview with an Irish language newspaper, Gaelscéal.


Dr Brophy said that medical judgements can be wrong and psychiatrists will be on a “hiding to nothing” if asked to adjudicate in these cases. He told Gaelscéal that suicidal intent is an 'easily fabricated condition' and that while psychiatrists can show that a woman is suicidal based on her stated symptoms, it is very difficult for them to prove that a woman who says she is not suicidal is not, nor is it their job to do so.

He added if a law were passed allowing for abortion on the terms of the X case that there would be public outrage if a pregnant woman took her own life after a being refused an abortion based on a psychiatrists view that she was not suicidal.”

Dr Brophy's comments come in the wake of other misgivings expressed by leading mental health experts.

Psychiatrist Dr Siobhán Barry previously told the Irish Times that an assessment of a woman for suicide risk would typically look at how she previously dealt with life’s reversals. Any suggestion that a woman would think of ending her life “out of the blue” because of an unwanted pregnancy was misplaced, she said.

In over five years’ practice in the UK, Dr Barry never once saw a case of a woman who had terminated her pregnancy on the basis that she wasn’t able to cope, she said. Later, when working at the Coombe for 12 years, she saw “very few” women in a state of suicidal crisis, reported the paper.

The same article criticised the references in the report to the threat of suicide as a ground for termination, saying this could result in a “tsunami” of such threats which couldn’t be properly assessed because of a lack of resources.

Dr Anthony McCarthy, one of only three perinatal psychiatrists in the country, has also warned against the introduction of what he called a "tick box" system of deciding whether or not a woman is entitled to an abortion. He said legislators need to give "very careful consideration" to who has sufficient qualifications and experience to decide if a pregnant woman is at risk of suicide.

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