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Ir Med J. 1982 Aug;75(8):304-6.

Therapeutic abortion: the medical argument.



This document analyzes all cases of maternal death between 1970-79 at the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, Ireland, and speculates as to the number of lives which might have been saved by therapeutic abortion. 74,317 births were considered; there were 21 deaths, or a mortality rate of 0.28/1000. 7 women died for reasons that had nothing to do with pregnancy: 3 cases of malignant disease, 2 of cerebrovascular accident, 1 of road accident, and 1 of Weil's disease. Therapeutic abortion would not have altered the outcome of pregnancy in these cases. 11 women died of pregnancy complications, 4 of infection, 3 of embolism, 2 of hemorrhage, 1 of eclampsia, and 1 of liver rupture. These deaths, however, could not have been prevented by therapeutic abortion, since these complications could not have been foreseen. 3 women died of diseases which could be said to have made pregnancy more dangerous. However, in the 1st case no disease was suspected until necropsy demonstrated the lesion; in the 2nd case the fatal outcome was interpreted as the terminal state of a chronic process which would have occurred whether or not the woman had been pregnant. Only in the 3rd instance a reasonable case could have been made in favor of therapeutic abortion. However, the woman in question had purposely sought pregnancy for the 2nd time in 2 years, fully aware of the risk involved; she would not have accepted a therapeutic abortion. Thus, the conclusion seems to be that, in the series presented, therapeutic abortion would not have saved a single life. The most recent publication on therapeutic abortion, bearing on 57,228 deliveries at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York between 1953-64, indicates that in over 69 cases of therapeutic abortion the degree of risk to the mother's life was debatable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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