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The Decision

Last night I saw a shocking program on ABC TV (COMPASS: Sunday October 26 2008). So shocking that I had to turn it off (at the point that I’ve highlighted in italics below). What follows is extracted from the transcript of the show. I’ve added emphasis to the transcript in key parts. Have a read and let us know what you think.

(You can read the full transcript at httpss://

For eight years Dr Lachlan de Crespigny, a leading obstetrician, has been at the centre of a bitter battle over the rights and wrongs of a life and death decision he and a team of doctors made at a Melbourne hospital. They aborted a 32 week old foetus diagnosed with dwarfism. The pregnant woman was acutely suicidal…..

It all began in early 2000 when a distressed woman turned up at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital.

She was 32 weeks pregnant…and her foetus had been diagnosed with a suspected non-lethal form of dwarfism.

Dr de Crespigny
… I was scared if we didn’t get it right that she could commit suicide….

The team canvassed alternative options with the woman but she had made up her mind….

Dr De Crespigny
Clearly the dwarfism could not be and wasn’t a reason for termination
. The reason that it was considered is because of the patient’s mental state…

The team was now agreed: without a termination the woman’s life was in danger…..The medical team went ahead with its collective decision: to end the woman’s pregnancy.

Dr de Crespigny
The procedure for terminating a pregnancy beyond around 24 weeks is a 2 stage one. The first step is to do a foetal injection so that the foetus is not born alive…. and the second step then is to bring on labour. So I carried out the injection and the patient then went to the labour ward and had labour induced. I didn’t see her again after that…

The hospital conducted its own inquiry which exonerated the doctors….The police found the doctors hadn’t broken any laws.

It took nearly 2 years, but by 2002 Lachlan de Crespigny and his colleagues were in the clear of both the coroner and the criminal courts….

But the doctors’ relief was short-lived…

Senator Julian McGauran in Parliament
“…there is a cover up going on, a cover-up to protect the very doctor who carried out the ultrasound and performed the foetal reduction…”

Senator Julian McGauran
I first read a little snippet in a Sunday newspaper and I was horrified by it. And it took it up from there….It’s pretty obvious we are dealing with more of a human being. And we have to now make the quite clear decision, are we – does the parents, the doctor and the hospital have an unfettered right or does the child have some rights, and certainly the right to live.

Dr de Crespigny
The question is whether abortion should be the conscience of an individual or whether it should be the conscience of politicians, or whether as McGauran would like, it should be his conscience should dictate how all Australians should live.

In late 2006, the Medical Board found no evidence of unprofessional conduct. Dr de Crespigny and his colleagues were finally in the clear… after 6 long years…Meanwhile, the Royal Women’s Hospital has moved premises, and it wants to leave this story behind…

On October 10 2008, Victoria’s Parliament passed the Abortion Law Reform Bill.

Abortions will now be legal up to 24 weeks into pregnancy.

After 24 weeks, at least 2 doctors must agree that a termination is appropriate “in all the circumstances.”

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