Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400-403)|
MP, DR FIONA
24 OCTOBER 2007
Q400 Mrs Dorries: Given that you
are taking advice from the RCOG, would the Minister accept the
paper from Dr Anand and others which is peer reviewed, it is a
very well-established paper, would the Minister or the Department
accept that paper and review that paper without it coming via
the channel of the RCOG?
Dawn Primarolo: Yes, I think I
explained earlier on in answer to, "How does the Department
keep itself abreast of information, research, et cetera?",
one of the issues was the internationally and nationally published
papers and that was a separate stream of information in the Department
from discussions with the colleges or anywhere else and that already
Q401 Mrs Dorries: So, just to conclude,
the Department does not see foetal pain as an issue or linked
with viability in terms of at what level the upper limit for abortion
should be set?
Dawn Primarolo: No, the Department
quite clearly accepts that this is an issue and is commissioning
research. We do not have the evidence that links it to viability,
but it is an important issue and I have tried to be clear, but
did not start so well, with the Committee as to where we are on
Q402 Mrs Dorries: If the evidence
showed that a foetus could feel pain from 20 weeks or less, would
the Department then consider altering its guidelines or consider
altering or making amendments to the Abortion Act which would
reduce the upper limit from 24 down?
Dawn Primarolo: As I have already
said, we do not see the connection necessarily with viability.
We do accept that there is an issue here, hence the guidelines
from the Royal College to make sure that a certain procedure is
taken, and we will continue to look at this issue through our
research to make sure that we have the most up-to-date and correct
advice being available to practitioners.
Q403 Chairman: Can I, for the record,
slightly correct a point. The RCOG statement says, "We are
unaware of the work of Dr Anand or any other work that contradicts
the basis of the review". It does not say that it disregarded
the work of Dr Anand. To be fair to the RCOG, we need to clarify
that. Finally, I want to thank you very, very much indeed for
giving us so much of your time this morning, but the RCOG abortion
guidelines were updated in 2004 and they were basically updated
because there was no NICE guidance at the time and the RCOG sort
of came into that void and actually created those guidelines.
Given the concern that some members of the Committee have about
the advice which the Department is getting, would it not be worthwhile,
Minister, or would you consider actually asking NICE to produce
guidelines, given the changes in practice, and to review the total
evidence so that NICE produced appropriate guidelines?
Dawn Primarolo: I do not think
that that is an appropriate step to take at the present time with
regard to requesting further assistance from NICE because, as
I have said, I think the operation with the expertise we have
now of the Act is in the right place. What I cannot say is for
future developments; it would depend on the context and whether
it was appropriate to refer to NICE and ask them to issue guidelines.
Normally, those guidelines would be on what is effective, works.
I think we are discussing much more what is appropriate here.
Chairman: On that note, could I thank
the Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo, the Minister of State, Dr Fiona Adshead
and Paula Cohen. Thank you very much indeed for coming.