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12° Nicosia,
21 April, 2024
 
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Doctors' abortion refusal raises concerns

Six out of eight anaesthesiologists at Makarios Hospital decline abortion procedures, sparking calls for investigation and reforms.

Ioanna Kyriakou

A significant controversy emerged during today's session of the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament, shedding light on the refusal of six out of eight anesthesiologists at Makarios Hospital to participate in an abortion procedure, citing religious reasons. The discussion, centered around the protection of women's sexual and reproductive rights within the General Health System, addressed a specific case where a woman's termination of pregnancy was halted twice, leading to her enduring five days of intense physical and mental pain.

The woman, for medical reasons, decided to terminate her pregnancy when she was in her 20th week, but the procedure faced interruptions due to the anesthetists' refusal.

Committee Chair Irini Charalambidou condemned the situation, describing it as a crime and called for a disciplinary investigation. Parliament urged a written report of events to be shared with Health Minister Michalis Damianos and Human Rights Commissioner Maria Stylianou Lottidis. MPs advocated for a State Health Services Organisation (SHSO) mechanism to guide procedures in such cases, aiming to prevent unnecessary suffering and uphold women's human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) committed to investigating the matter.

Naisika Lepoura, representing the Obstetrics Clinic of Makareio Hospital, asserted that anesthetists violated the law, emphasizing a woman's right to request termination of pregnancy at will within the first 12 weeks. Elias Xynis, on behalf of the Cyprus Society of Anaesthesiologists, affirmed that once there is a medical reason, doctors are not entitled to refuse an abortion.

Stalo Panaouri, Deputy Director of the Anaesthesiology Department, revealed that only two out of eight anesthesiologists at Makareio Hospital participate in abortion procedures. Christos Christou, Executive Director of the Nicosia Division, explained that if the involved doctor is absent, the patient can be transferred to another hospital.

Susanna Pavlou of the Mediterranean Institute for Gender Studies plans to denounce Cyprus at a Geneva conference for multiple violations of women's rights. Maria Epaminonda, Executive Director of the Cyprus Family Planning Association, highlighted a longstanding issue of doctors refusing abortion procedures, not only at Makarios Hospital but at all state hospitals.

Health Minister Michael Damianos acknowledged doctors' right to refuse certain procedures for personal reasons, suggesting patients consult other doctors.

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