Gynaecologists support Mumbai couple on abortion

August 6th, 2008 - 6:46 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Anbumani Ramadoss

New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) The government may think differently, but gynaecologists in India as well as other parts of the world have expressed support for the Mumbai couple whose request to abort their 25-week-old foetus with a congenial heart block was turned down by a court. “It is high time we all questioned the laws that go against human welfare at large,” Geeta Chaddha, a senior consultant at Apollo Hospital here, told IANS.

Congratulating the couple and their doctor for showing the courage to take up the case and approach the court, Chaddha pointed out that they had not resorted to any illegitimate method.

She along with several known gynaecologists have put their comments on the home page of Pankaj Desai, former president of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI).

FOGSI has 24,000 obstetricians and gynaecologists practicing all over India as members and is affiliated to the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Most of the doctors have supported the Mumbai couple and said time has come to change the 1971 Act.

The Bombay High Court rejected Mumbai couple Niketa and Haresh Mehta’s plea for abortion of their 25-week foetus with a congenial heart block this week. In India, medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) is allowed up to 20 weeks.

When asked about changes in the MTP Act, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss last week said “based on one case, the health ministry cannot decide on an amendment on the law. But the issue would be debated and discussed.”

Many gynaecologists are pressing for a change in the law.

“If we do not do so, I fear we would be missing many more anomalies of cardiac origin since echo is done around 22 weeks to improve its sensitivity,” said Chaddha.

“My question is if the Western world has kept the limit of termination at 24 weeks, why are we so smug in deluding (ourselves) that we salvage our foetuses at 24 weeks,” Chaddha asked.

Narendra Malhotra, the president of FOGSI, commented that the risk to the mother in case of termination of pregnancy at 25 weeks is not significantly higher than the risk at 20 weeks.

“In case of foetal abnormalities which have been detected late, and which would lead to extremely serious handicaps at birth to the baby, such foetus should be allowed to be terminated, even after 20 weeks. This could be made subject to such safeguards and processes as may be deemed appropriate,” he added.

There are several comments posted by gynaecologists on the home page of Desai.

One by Nimish Pillai reads: “With inflation around 12 percent it is a real dilemma for the average middle class to bring a child with handicaps in this world. With absolutely no state support for handicapped children, I think it is better aborted rather than made to suffer in this selfish world.”

“My only reservation is if law is made to abort at any stage of pregnancy it should not be misused by unscrupulous elements in our profession. Such cases should be examined by a panel of experts before abortion is allowed,” he added.

Karuna Raja, a doctor from Australia, said: “In hospitals in Australia, we have an ethics committee which deals with these issues on a case by case basis. I feel extremely sorry for this woman. This should not have been a legal battle for her. I fully support it.”

A Singapore-based doctor just wrote a simple line - “I support it.”

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