Consultant gynaecologist explains how the new law may make things worse for women
In an interview in today's Times of Malta, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Mark Sant explains how the new version of Bill 28, likely to become law next week, may make the situation even more dangerous for pregnant women in Malta.
Sant explains how the new law is "regressive" because it does not represent any improvement over the status quo, and may place more burdens on doctors delivering lifesaving care to pregnant women. Of particular concern is the new requirement in the law to have three specialists decide on a termination of pregnancy when a woman's life is at risk.
Sant says, "it now takes three specialists to say that an infection is life-threatening instead of just the one taking care of her. In the past, the consultant would discuss with their team and decide that yes, this is serious. Now there will be some complex mechanism requiring three approved specialists to decide this, which will invariably take up more time and possibly bring around further delays.
In a typical healthcare scenario, there is usually only one consultant looking after a patient. The consultant is competent enough to decide on the care the patient needs, even in critical situations. The new law will force the consultant looking after a patient with a complication in pregnancy to get the approval of no less than two other consultants - which are likely to have no prior knowledge of the patient and will have to spend time getting familiar with the case - before they can deliver lifesaving care to the woman.
The new law is truly regressive because it enacts more barriers to women receiving care, and since men and people who do not become pregnant do not face similar barriers when their life is at risk, it increases the inequalities in our country.
In addition to Mark Sant, other consultant gynaecologists agreed that the new law will not have made any difference to a case like the one of Andrea Prudente last year. Prudente was admitted to hospital with ruptured membranes at 16 weeks and had to be flown to Spain for an abortion. The consultants agree that under the new law, someone in the same situation as Prudente will not be able to receive the care they need in Malta anyway. This makes the whole exercise to enact this law pointless and potentially dangerous for women.