Press Release: Debate on Termination of Pregnancy

Press Release: 29 November 2022

The Maltese Association of Psychiatry has taken note of the current debate regarding
termination of pregnancy, and the discussion about whether legal efforts to protect doctors seeking to save a mother’s life are over-reaching their stated goal.

We note with concern that there are ongoing attempts to differentiate between physical
health and mental health. The MAP believes that health care needs to be holistic in its
approach, and that a person cannot be truly healthy without all major systems functioning appropriately.

Laws and policy makers need to begin to approach the concept of health by taking all aspects into consideration when creating services, writing laws, and proposing
system development. The MAP notes that until the deputy prime minister’s encouraging
words on Monday 28th, this approach has been largely inexistent in Malta.

The MAP is also seriously concerned that women’s mental health and mental health
assessment is being discussed or intimated in the current debates, including by the deputy prime minister, but that psychiatrists, who are the experts in this field, and are also the professionals who would predictably be expected to contribute primarily to decision-making in individual cases, have not been included nor invited to discussions in which our insights can help guide the debate before irreversible decisions are made.

We would like to clarify that mental disorders are among the most prevalent, distressing
and devastating of all illnesses, and people suffering from them should not have their
experiences trivialised. However, mental illness, in this day and age is also largely treatable.

Mental illness should not be considered in isolation during such a serious debate. And
mental illness should not be considered separately from other illnesses, that is to say: if the criteria for termination are to be considered the threat of loss of maternal life, then that should equally be the standard for psychiatric illness

Addendum: 5 December 2022

The Maltese Association of Psychiatry firmly stands with parity. Any debate on indications for termination of pregnancy as a life-saving measure in the context of mental illness must be based on evidence-based scientific facts as would happen for physical illness. Consequently, we note that to date there is no evidence base supporting termination of pregnancy as a life-saving procedure in the context of perinatal mental illness.

As stated in our earlier statement, mental illness in this day and age is largely treatable: safe treatment is indeed available to support a mother’s recovery in the perinatal period even if in situations of imminent risk to the mother. We encourage pregnant women, mothers and their carers to seek help through the appropriate systems available.

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