When an anesthesiologist refuses to assist doctors during an abortion

After public outcry over an alleged abortion that was performed without anesthesia due to the conscientious objection of the anesthesiologist in a hospital in Dubrovnik, the Croatian Health Ministry announced an internal investigation.  

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
When an anesthesiologist refuses to assist doctors during an abortion - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

The Dubrovnik case sparked yet another debate about women's healthcare in Croatia. But where will the debate take us, if anywhere?

In October last year, Croatian MP Ivana Ninčević Lesandrić publicly shared her experience of having a surgical procedure involving the scraping of the uterine wall in a hospital in the Croatian city of Split when she began suffering a spontaneous miscarriage.

She said doctors tied her hands and legs and didn't give her any anesthesia, which she felt was extremely painful and humiliating. 

Her story was backed up by numerous testimonies from other women across Croatia who said they didn't receive adequate care and support during their miscarriages or childbirths. Due to the reactions of the public and the media, healthcare officals said they will look into the issue.

But nothing has changed, at least not for better. 

We read more and more often about examples of women being denied services due to the conscientious objection of doctors they pay.

And we hear more and more often of painful stories of the disrespect and humiliation of women which -- according to numerous testimonies -- happen very often in Croatian clinics and hospitals. 

Croatian doctors should take their job far more seriously. And their first and foremost job is to protect the health and rights of their patients.

Details from the story:

  • Conscientious objection to abortion is common among Croatian doctors. Abortion is legal, but doctors have the right to refuse to do it. 
  • Healthcare Minister Milan Kujundžić said the right to conscientious objection to abortion should be available to doctors, but at the same time he thinks women should be able to have abortions. 
  • Several public hospitals in Croatia do not perform abortions at all, according to media reports. 
  • In November last year, a doctor refused to sell contraceptive pills in a pharmacy in Zagreb. The doctor told the customer that she doesn't approve of pills as a form of contraception and therefore, she cannot sell them. The customer complained to the medical chamber. 
  • The UN called on the Croatian government in early March to take action on obstetric violence after the #BreakTheSilence campaign resulted in more than 400 testimonials by Croatian women who had experienced abusive medical procedures.
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