Dozens of doctors who pre-signed abortion forms may escape prosecution through an “utterly preposterous” technicality, a Conservative MP has warned.
Writing for The Telegraph, David Burrowes explains that doctors who approved abortions for women they had never met could “wriggle” out of being penalised if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) argues that the doctors may have discussed the cases after signing the blank forms.
Currently, abortions can only be approved if two doctors are of the opinion, formed in good faith, that at least one of the legal grounds for abortion exists.
Burrowes highlighted a CPS letter from 2013 that has recently come to light, which says pre-signing an abortion form “does not provide proof that the form was not completed in good faith since cases could be discussed after clinical contact had taken place”.
“In other words”, Burrowes explained, “because it is possible that a doctor would have a change of heart, searched through medical records and come to a good-faith opinion at some point between perjuring a form and the abortion taking place, there is not enough evidence to prosecute”.
But he reasoned that “the improbable notion that doctors who pre-signed forms were scuttling around hospitals making sure that their illicit certifications were backed up by retrospective good-faith opinions is utterly preposterous”.
“These doctors knew nothing about these patients.
“They had no idea who their pre-signed forms were destined for, let alone when the pregnant women in question would be scheduled for the procedure”, he added.
An investigation by the Care Quality Commission in 2012 found that 67 doctors had illegally signed blank abortion consent forms, and despite them all being referred to the General Medical Council, none faced disciplinary action.
Earlier this month, a group of eleven MPs – including David Burrowes – wrote to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police calling for a Scotland Yard inquiry into the doctors.
A spokesman for the CPS told The Telegraph that there is “no general policy not to prosecute doctors who pre-sign forms”.
“The decision to launch a criminal investigation lies with the police alone. Should the police investigate and refer the matter to us, we will consider cases on an individual basis.
“Mr Burrowes and his colleagues can be assured that any such decision will involve a very thorough, careful and independent consideration of all the relevant factors.”