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Abortion—Northern Ireland (NI)
  1. Martin Davies,
  2. Veronica English,
  3. Julian C Sheather,
  4. Sophie Brannan,
  5. Ruth Campbell,
  6. Rebecca Mussell
  1. Department of Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Martin Davies, Department of Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London, UK; mdavies{at}

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Abortion—Northern Ireland

At the end of 2015, Northern Ireland's (NI) High Court of Justice ruled that NI abortion legislation breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights—the right to respect for private and family life. The law breaches the Convention as it does not enable women to seek abortion for:

  • fatal fetal abnormality at any time during their pregnancy, or

  • pregnancies due to rape and/or incest up to the date when the fetus becomes capable of independent existence.1

At the time of writing, it was not known if NI's Department of Justice and Executive would appeal the decision or bring forward legislation to reflect the judgment.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

In November 2015, the High Court handed down a judgment in a case involving the recording of a do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) decision for a 28-year-old man who lacked capacity.2 The judgment has raised a number of interesting questions about when it would not be ‘practical and appropriate’ to ‘consult’ those close to the patient of a DNACPR decision, and what might be a ‘compelling obstacle’ to consultation. In the case, a DNACPR decision was made at 3:00 in the morning as the doctor believed that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) would have no chance of success. The doctor did not think there was imminent risk of a cardiopulmonary arrest but wished to avoid the possibility of nursing staff being obliged to attempt CPR. At the time the decision was made and documented, no one close to the patient was consulted or informed, instead “DNAR. Speak to family in the morning” was recorded.

In the judgment, The Honourable Mr Justice Blake concluded that there had been a breach of section 4(7) duty to consult under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) and there had been a violation of the procedural duty under …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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