A shocking new report has revealed that some doctors routinely pre-sign consent forms for women to have clinical terminations without even meeting them beforehand.
The British Pregnancy Advisory’s former medical director – Vincent Argent – has branded doctors’ approach to completing necessary paperwork as “lax” and has said that the practice is common at an NHS hospital where he used to work.
The law states that adoptions must be certified by two doctors unless the situation is an emergency. This requirement was criticised in 2007 with concerns that abortions could be unnecessarily delayed.
There is no legal requirement, however, for doctors to have to actually see the women they are signing for, only that they have seen and assessed the clinical information pertaining to the case. This information is often taken by another doctor or nurse.
Argent said that one colleague he worked with used to sign forms in bulk so that one signature was already on the forms without any patient’s name. Whenever he or another doctor then saw the patient, the second signature would be added.
The revelation comes as the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley warns, following unannounced inspections to abortion providers, that licenses will be withdrawn from those not abiding by the law.
Lansley has said that he was shocked and appalled by the findings, which go against the rules set in the Abortion Act, and that the process of signing certificates for women whom the doctor does not know is illegal.
He went on to state that abortions should not be taken lightly and said the Abortion Act is in place for a reason – to safeguard women prior to an abortion taking place – and that the right checks and balances should be in place.
20% of around 250 clinics assessed were found to be “non-compliant” with regulations and the law. One doctor has already been suspended and two more have had conditions added to their license to practice. The Care Quality Commission will be revisiting those clinics where practices are raising concern.