A bill to remove the risk of criminal prosecution of doctors if a pregnancy is terminated during intervention to protect a mother's life or health will cause more problems for medical professionals, the doctors’ union said on Tuesday.
The Medical Association of Malta said the union never asked for the bill, which amends the criminal code, and was not consulted by the government about it.
The bill, currently being debated in parliament, has drawn a storm of protest from the opposition, the church and several NGOs.
'Vague' wording can cause more problems for doctors
Speaking during a press conference outside Mater Dei Hospital, MAM president Martin Balzan said that rather than protecting doctors, the amendment would create legal issues.
“We agree with the first part about safeguarding a mother’s life, as this is already done in practice, but we are not happy that the text also speaks of interventions leading to the termination of pregnancies to safeguard the mother's health,” Balzan said.
“Including the mother’s health in the discussion will only bring up more problems, rather than solve them. This is a problem of wording, of interpretation, the text is too vague and we believe the wording should be completely amended or changed, so it will be clear on what is already regularised.”
He also suggested that the decision to terminate a pregnancy should not be left to one doctor, but ideally a board of three medical professionals.
Prime Minister Robert Abela has said it will be up to doctors to decide what conditions justify a medical intervention that would result in the termination of a pregnancy.
“There is no mention (in the bill) of the procedure to the followed for such decisions to be taken,” Balzan said.
He insisted that if the government was planning to introduce abortion then doctors "should not be put in the middle of the controversy."
“Let me make this clear, if anyone thinks that this amendment was requested by doctors, it is not true," he said.
"If we are introducing an amendment that will bring in abortion, we do not want anything to do with it.”
Balzan said the MAM was urging the government to allow more time for the bill to be discussed so that its wording would safeguard mothers-to-be and doctors.
Aloisia Camilleri, a consultant representative of MAM said were are a number of medications that a pregnant woman facing mental health issues could take which were safe for both her and the fetus.
Balzan said so far no pregnant woman had to terminate her pregnancy due to mental health issues.
"It would be better to leave the law as it is now- because the wording is too vague, and can open new problems," Balzan reiterated.