Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 71(1) February 2021

In Haec Tempora

News from our CMA (UK) President
Sent to all CMA (UK) members 27th October 2020

Dermot Kearney
President Catholic Medical Association (UK)

Author - Dermot KearneyDear CMA member

Thank you for your continuing membership and for your continuing support for the Catholic Medical Association (UK). This is the latest newsletter from the CMA (UK) President circulated to all members for whom I have up to date email addresses and the first since March 2020. In addition to the Catholic Medical Quarterly, the CMA (UK) website and the CMA Youth Branch Facebook page, it is hoped that this newsletter will help to keep our members informed of CMA activities and enable them to feel connected to our mission.


Concerns regarding the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic continue. Many have died already and many continue to suffer from debilitating complications directly related to infection. More will die although there are signs that death rates from infection may not be as devastating as those experienced earlier this year. Fortunately, it seems that no CMA (UK) members have died as a result of this illness, even though many of us have been exposed to the virus as frontline healthcare professionals playing our part to treat patients suffering with serious illness from infection. Many individuals and groups have expressed strong opinions on how best to tackle the pandemic. The CMA (UK) will not add itself to the list of these self-appointed experts. We continue, however, to advise that all persons are created in the image and likeness of God and that all deserve to be treated appropriately without discrimination, in particular on the basis of age or other perceived frailties. I reiterate what was stated in the previous circular in March 2020 that “those of us in a position to influence clinical decisions need to remain alert to ensure that unjust discrimination in healthcare provision is not allowed to happen.”

Covid-19 vaccine production

The CMA (UK) Ethics Committee discussed this issue at our meeting immediately before the Council meeting on Saturday 17th October 2020. A consensus statement will be released shortly. While a reliable vaccine to combat Covid-19 is not currently available, there is a great deal of work being devoted to vaccine development throughout the world. Our statement on page 13 of this issue addresses concerns relating to vaccine safety, efficacy and ethical development.

Youth Conference October 2020

The 6th Annual CMA (UK) Youth Conference was held by Zoom this year on Saturday 3rd October. The theme for the Conference was “Caring for the Mind, Body and Soul” with a focus on mental health care. Reports on the qual-ity of the presentations have been very positive despite the absence of personal interaction that is a normal feature of such conferences. Thank you to all of the organisers, speakers and attendees who made this virtual event so successful. The presentations are available for viewing on the YouTube channel organised by our Youth Branch. The Youth Branch have made arrangements for Requiem Mass for the repose of the souls of deceased CMA (UK) members to be celebrated on Saturday 14th November 2020 at 11.30am at The Rosary Shrine, St Dominic’s Catholic Church, London NW5 4LB. More details regard-ing registration and live streaming can be found on the events page on the CMA (UK) website.

AGM 2020

Our Annual Conference and AGM had been planned to take place in St Mary’s, Twickenham in May 2020. The event was unfortunately cancelled due to the corona virus concerns. We managed to hold our AGM, however, by Zoom on Saturday 5th September.
Thank you to all those who attended.

AGM and Conference 2021

At this stage, there remains uncertainty regarding the exact nature of our Annual Conference and AGM for 2021. It will, however, take place in April or May 2021. We are grateful to the officers and members of the Sussex branch who have kindly undertaken to organise this event. More details will, of course, follow.

Abortion Pill Rescue update

Since the last update in March 2020, there have been a number of exciting developments on the issue of abortion pill rescue. This is a programme developed in response to pleas from women who have taken the first abortion pill, Mifepristone, but who change their minds shortly afterwards and who wish to rescue their unborn child and preserve their pregnancies. As mentioned previously, the CMA (UK) has co-operated with several pro-life organisations in the UK and at the international level to develop this rescue programme, initiated in the USA in 2012. A detailed information leaflet has been published and released with the help of Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and another basic information leaflet about how to seek assistance has been produced and distributed by 40 Days for Life (UK). Two members of the CMA (UK) are now actively responding to mothers desperately seeking help and, to date, have already responded to 50 pleas for rescue treatment. The UK programme has only been operating since June 2020. We initially estimated that we might receive 10-20 requests for help per annum. The numbers seeking help is likely to continue to rise as information regarding the availability of this treatment becomes more widespread. The first live births of babies rescued by this treatment are eagerly anticipated in the coming months. Even in the cases, without exception, where the treatment provided has been unsuccessful or too late, there has been overwhelming gratitude expressed by the mothers concerned that attempts were made to help them to try to reverse the devastating effects of an initial bad decision. To quote one young woman, whose child sadly died despite provision of Progesterone: “…your kindness will never be forgotten and the help you gave us, gave our baby a chance… thank you from the bottom of my heart. If anything, my faith in humanity was restored.”

BMA membership

The recently-released results of the BMA poll among its members on assisted suicide and euthanasia, carried out earlier this year, shows a worrying trend with increasing support for both assisted suicide and euthanasia. Although the BMA currently remains opposed to both of these practices and currently does not support a change in the law to allow them to become legal, that position could change in the near future. Please see the attached reports from our Honorary Registrar, Dr Dominic Whitehouse, encouraging all CMA (UK) members who are also members of the BMA to become actively involved to ensure that the BMA does not change its position and lend its support to the movement promoting the legalisation of allowing doctors to assist others to kill themselves or to actively end the lives of their patients

GP contract and conscience protection

Negotiations with the BMA and NHS England are continuing on the issue of the change in the GP contract in 2019 making contraception provision an essential rather than an additional service. The CMA (UK) remain firm in its conviction that the consciences of Catholic doctors affected by this unilateral contractual change must be respected. In our latest submis-sion, on 14th September 2020, we described this as a “line in the sand” issue for Catholic healthcare professionals throughout the world. Alternative means for dealing with this situation were suggested and the letter concluded with the statement “… In the interests of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we expect that reasonable accommodation respecting religious conviction can be achieved in this matter.” A response from both organisations is awaited.

Forthcoming CMA branch meetings

As we are currently unable to hold local branch face-to-face meetings, a number of virtual meetings have been organised by local branches, using Zoom or other platforms. Please keep in touch with your local branches for details.

Branch meetings

Lancaster, Newcastle, Sussex, our Youth branch, and other branches have all been meeting by Zoom etc during the lockdown. Do please contact your local branch secretaries for details of meetings.


Many of our members may have noticed that the CMA (UK) website has recently undergone a major update and transformation. The new design has already proven to be highly effective and is very attractive. It is also very user friendly and easy to navigate. We are very grateful to Dr Rachel Nicholls and colleagues for the time and effort employed in this major and highly successful re-design work.


The CMA (UK) remains committed to maintaining close links with our international Catholic doctor colleagues through our affiliation with these international federations. FEAMC Bureau meetings planned in May 2020 in Vil-nius, Lithuania and October 2020 Budapest, Hungary were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Virtual meetings have taken place, the latest on Saturday 26th September. The CMA (UK) was represented at this meeting and a report was delivered that included an account of the impact of Covid on the nation. The next FEAMC bureau meeting will take place in mid-December 2020.

Challenges ahead in 2021

The world hopes and some of us also pray that the scourge of SARS-Cov-2 will soon pass and that at least some sense of normality will resume. Until then, on- going vigilance and reasonable, responsible behaviour must continue. Some of our members will be familiar with Abby Johnson, whose autobiography inspired the recent movie Unplanned, the true story of a former Planned Parenthood director who underwent a conversion and is now a leading pro-life spokesperson. Abby was one of the guest speakers at the recent hybrid-virtual American CMA Annual Educational Conference. Following her excellent presentation, a CMA member in the audience asked her what advice she could give to CMA members. Her response was brilliantly inspiring. She said “no-one has a better grasp of medical ethics than Catholics.” She went on to state that Catholics (specifically referring to Catholic healthcare professionals) know how to answer all of the med-ical ethical questions that may be posed, but we need to be vocal. Above all, we need to help others to be articulate when asked to respond to medical ethical questions. “The CMA has a wonderful opportunity to come together, use its collective brain power and experience to lead the way and make definitive guiding statements on all ethical issues.”

It’s a piece of advice that is challenging but also reassuring. I am inclined to agree that there are also many members of the CMA (UK) who have a unique understanding of medical ethics that non-Catholics do not have. Largely because we consider these issues much more than others do. I pray that many of our members will be courageous, wise and charitable in providing support to others and will guide and lead them towards the Way, the Truth and the Life.

May God Bless you all

Dermot Kearney
President Catholic Medical Association (UK)