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Abortion and mental health: guidelines for proper scientific conduct ignored

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Renzo Puccetti
European Medical Association Research, Working Group, Pisa, Italy. Email:
Maria Cristina Del Poggetto
Italian Society of Relational Psychotherapy, Lucca, Italy
Maria Luisa Di Pietro
School of Medicine ‘A. Gemelli’, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy
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Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2012 

The study by Coleman Reference Coleman1 and the following comments may offer a further useful point of view to the bioethical debate. Irrespectively of moral judgement, in the majority of cases abortion is performed by physicians to protect women’s mental health from an unintended/unwanted pregnancy or birth, but as a minimum what we can say is that evidence does not support any beneficial effect on women’s mental health as a result of having an abortion. On the public health level, abortion may therefore be considered no more than a procedure satisfying criteria for futility. Reference Schneiderman, Jecker and Jonsen2,Reference Waisel and Truog3 On the individual level, any abortive procedure should be instead preceded by an in-depth analysis of the various factors known to interfere with the psychological outcomes. But as far as we know this is almost never the case. If women’s health is what abortion providers intend to preserve, they should accept a substantial revision of their protocols under the assistance of skilled psychiatrists.


1 Coleman, PK. Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995–2009. Br J Psychiatry 2011; 199: 180–6.Google Scholar
2 Schneiderman, LJ, Jecker, NS, Jonsen, AR. Medical futility: its meaning and ethical implications. Ann Intern Med 1990; 112: 949–54.Google Scholar
3 Waisel, DB, Truog, RD. The cardiopulmonary resuscitation-not-indicated order: futility revisited. Ann Intern Med 1995; 122: 304–8.Google Scholar
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