McDonnell challenged to meet foetal specialists

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell

Alasdair McDonnell has been challenged to go into a hospital and see the latest baby scanning techniques for himself, as criticism of his stance on the subject grew on Friday.

Dr McDonnell was challenged in the Assembly this week about comments he had made on the BBC’s Inside Politics show, when he stated his party’s opposition to abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, and told the programme: “Nobody can predict that a foetus is not viable and that’s the problem”.

Predictions were, he said, “never accurate”.

Yesterday a senior consultant who specialises in the field, Dr Samina Dornan, told the BBC his comments had “undermined our professional integrity.”

Meanwhile, Breedagh Hughes of the Royal College of Midwives (representing about 1,500 staff in Northern Ireland) told the News Letter: “I’d call on him to retract the statement he made; to go and speak to the professionals who work in this area, the experts who work in this area, and find out what the current situation is, and how sophisticated the latest diagnostic techniques are.”

While he would not be able to view an actual diagnosis taking place, she said he could be given a tour of the equipment and practices, and that any hospital “would be delighted to have him”.

When challenged over his stance in the Assembly on Tuesday, Dr McDonnell told MLAs: “I want to put it clearly on the record that I never insinuated or implied that the doctors always get it wrong.”

Mr McDonnell, a GP, did not respond to a message on this matter last night.