Opinions, perceptions and practices of obstetrician-gynaecologists with respect to informing the police about patients who have had induced abortions: Lima, Peru, 2014

by Sixto Sánchez Calderon, Juan Mere del Castillo, Percy Pacora Portella, Susana Chávez Alvarado, Rossina Guerrero Vásquez, Mónica Barrientos Pacherre, María Jiménez Sánchez.

Revista Peruana de Ginecología y Obstetricia, 2015;61(3)

Abstract

Problem: Under Article 30 of the Peruvian General Health Law, it is a relatively common practice to report cases of women with induced abortion who come to the emergency services for treatment of complications to the police. However, doing so jeopardises medical secrecy and the patient’s rights to privacy and confidentiality.

Objective: To know the perceptions, opinions, knowledge, attitudes and practices of obstetrician-gynaecologists regarding giving information to the police about patients with induced abortion.

Methodology: 33 obstetrician-gynaecologists were systematically selected from three hospitals for an in-depth interview. 69 doctors who were not involved in the qualitative component completed a standardised, self-administered questionnaire. Participation was voluntary and the study was reviewed and approved by the ethics committee of the three hospitals involved.

Results: 78.3% of participants knew that the law required them to report cases of induced abortion to the police; 43.5% disagreed with this requirement. 58.0% of participants agreed with the right of professional confidentiality. However, 43.5% of participants reported the most recent induced abortion they had attended to the police in the previous five years. The main reason was to comply with the law and fear of being identified as an accomplice in these cases and the criminal consequences that might result.

Conclusions and recommendations: The practice of reporting women who have had an induced abortion violates medical rights, including privacy and confidentiality, and creates legal and police-related problems for women who already have medical, family and social problems. The authors propose that Article 30 of the Peruvian General Health Law be modified or abolished. In its place, a coordinated and integrated national programme of responsible parenthood should be implemented.

VISUAL