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British doctors pre-sign abortion forms

March 24, 2012 at 6:45 PM

LONDON, March 24 (UPI) -- The former medical director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said doctors routinely signed off on abortions for women they never met.

"We used to pre-sign forms, we used to sign forms after the operation, we used to ask the anesthetists to do it … . It was bad practice," Vincent Argent said Friday.

Care Quality Commission, a British agency that inspects and reviews all adult social care services in England, conducted raids on hundreds of private and National Health Service clinics offering abortions and found more than 50 were "not in compliance" with the law or regulations, The Daily Telegraph reported.

"What is not acceptable is to sign the certificates without knowing who is the woman to which it relates," Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said. "There have recently been a number of serious allegations involving potential breaches of the Abortion Act 1967. I will consider withdrawing an independent abortion provider's approval to conduct abortions if the requirements of the act are not being met."

Under the act, any abortion must be approved by two doctors before being performed.

Argent said pre-signing forms was common practice at an NHS hospital where he used to work and a colleague "used to pre-sign a batch of forms before she went away so there was one signature already on the form, without the patient's name."

"Then when I saw the patient, or someone else saw the patient, they could add in their signature," Argent said

A spokesman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said commission inspectors had been diverted from their duty of inspecting standards at institutions such as hospitals.

"They have stopped doing their other work to do this -- and at some of our clinics they have spent up to 5 hours going through paper work, when as far as I am aware there is nothing different about the way that doctors are practicing now than the way that they were practicing five years ago or 10 years ago," she said.

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