Italian doctor ‘refused to assist abortion’

A woman in the process of having a medical abortion was forced to call police to a hospital in Genoa on Easter Saturday after a doctor, described as a ‘conscientious objector’ to abortion, refused to assist her.

Italian doctor 'refused to assist abortion'
Abortion pill photo: Shutterstock

The 19-year-old had taken the first stage of an abortion drug two days earlier and returned to the gynaecology unit at St Martino di Genova hospital for the second part of the process, as well as to have an ultrasound to check if the pill was working, Il Secolo XIX reported on Wednesday.

But Salvatore Felis, 57, the only doctor on duty due to the Easter holiday, allegedly refused to assist her on moral grounds.

The woman was then kept waiting for hours, the newspaper said.

“She was alone, in the company of nurses who didn’t know what was going on and could not help her. Nobody took the trouble to explain what was happening,” the news website said.

She was finally seen to after the police arrived, and a doctor was found to provide the pill and perform the ultrasound.

“It was a mistake,” admitted the department’s head, Claudio Gustavio.

“The patient had every right to be able to conclude a process that had already started. In future, I will make sure this never happens again and I will ensure all shifts are fully covered, even during difficult periods like Christmas and Easter.”

The health authorities are deciding whether or not to take action against the doctor.

Although abortion is legal in Italy, access to the procedure can be near-impossible for some women.

A report from the Italian government last year said that more than 80 percent of gynaecologists and over 50 percent of of anesthesiologists and nurses refuse to participate in abortions.

Earlier this month, an Italian woman from Turin died after taking an abortion pill.

READ MORE HERE: Italian woman dies after taking abortion drug

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First cruise ship sets sail from Italy since coronavirus shutdown

The first major cruise ship to resume tours of the Mediterranean since the coronavirus pandemic hit Europe set sail from the Italian city of Genoa on Sunday, as the industry tries to regain ground after a bruising hiatus.

First cruise ship sets sail from Italy since coronavirus shutdown
A photographer watches the MSC Grandiosa depart on Sunday August 16th, 2020, after more than six months of inactivity. Photo: AFP

The departure of the MSC Grandiosa from the northwestern port city at 1930 local time represents a high-stakes test for the global sector in the key Mediterranean market and beyond.

The international cruise industry has been battered not only by the ongoing health crisis which in March forced the worldwide grounding of its ships, but accusations of a botched handling of the epidemic in its early stages.

Cruise lines are hoping that new, tighter protocols will allow them to control the still-lingering threat of coronavirus aboard its ships while still offering travellers a cruise experience that does not disappoint.

Arriving passengers preparing to check in before taking a required coronavirus blood test inside the terminal told AFP they were not concerned about the virus. Some said they believed cruises were now safer than other vacation options.

“I couldn't miss the first cruise after Covid,” cruise blogger Rosalba Scarrone, 64, told AFP.

READ ALSO: Venice anti-cruise ship activists cheer temporary victory as liners pull out

“I've taken 87 cruises, can you imagine how much I've suffered not setting off from February until now?”

The Grandiosa is part of the fleet of privately-owned MSC Cruises, founded in Naples but now based in Geneva. The ship will travel to the ports of Civitavecchia near Rome, Naples, Palermo and Valletta, Malta during the seven-day cruise.

Competitor Costa Cruises, owned by Carnival, has opted to delay the restart of its Mediterranean cruises until September, with departures from Trieste and Genoa for Italian-only clients. The company said the measure was designed to “guarantee the maximum security for guests, crew and local communities.”

Fewer passengers

Much is riding on the decision to restart cruises. Italy represents the bulk of Europe's cruise industry, reaping 14.5 billion euros of revenue per year and supporting nearly 53,000 jobs, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

The group estimated a potential economic loss from suspended cruises throughout Europe could amount to about 25.5 billion euros.

“The voyage … represents a tangible sign of comeback for one of the fundamental economic industries of our city,” said Genoa Mayor Marco Bucci.

Over 2 million cruise passengers departed from the city last year.

Last week, Italy's government, which is striving to revive the country's moribund economy after a more than two-month lockdown, gave cruise operators the green light to begin operating again as of August 15. 

MSC authorities said approximately 2,500 passengers would be on its debut cruise, limited to about 70 percent of normal capacity.

All eyes in the industry will be on the Grandiosa after a smaller cruise operator, Norway's Hurtigruten, was forced earlier this month to suspend its newly restarted service after dozens of passengers and crew tested positive for COVID-19.

Global health authorities criticised the industry's slow response to the spread of the virus at the onset of the crisis earlier this year before ships were grounded in March, from lax monitoring of crew, to continued operation of self-service buffets and gyms, to lack of personal protective equipment.

Buffet is served

As of June 11, 3,047 people were infected and 73 people died aboard 48 cruise ships affiliated with trade group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), according to Johns Hopkins University data, provided by CLIA.

Health authorities say close living and working spaces for crew, along with partially enclosed environments contributed to greater risk of infection on cruises than other venues.

MSC has suspended the rest of its Mediterranean cruises until October save for an August 29 cruise departing from the southern Italian port of Bari.

The company said its new security protocol exceeds national and industry standards, including daily temperatures taken and escorted trips in controlled groups for excursions.

Food from the buffet, a highlight of the cruise experience, will be served at passengers' tables.