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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 00:41 GMT
Secret pregnancy tests on children
Young mums
There is concern about the rate of underage pregnancies
One in five emergency nurses are involved in carrying out secret pregnancy tests on children as young as nine-years-old, a survey has suggested.

The revelation has prompted calls for an end to the practice from senior nurses.

The snapshot survey was carried out at a conference of A&E nurses organised by the Royal College of Nursing. It is reported in Nursing Standard magazine.

You wouldn't carry out a test on a 60-year-old woman like me so why a little girl?

Sue Burr
Paediatric nurses said children arriving at A&E departments with stomach pains were being tested for pregnancy without their knowledge or that of their parents.

Doctors can order nurses to carry out tests to rule out any early pregnancy, particularly if the patient is going to be sent for an X-ray which could harm a developing baby.

The survey suggested in some cases doctors had refused to examine a patient with abdominal pains unless a pregnancy test was first carried out.

Sue Burr, the Royal College of Nursing's advisor in paediatric nursing, said the RCN had been contacted by nurses concerned that the tests were being conducted.

Human rights

She said carrying out covert tests was an "infringement of human rights".

"There should not be covert testing of any condition.

"They must tell the child or their parents and use common sense so it is not a waste of resources.

"You wouldn't carry out a test on a 60-year-old woman like me so why a little girl?"

Ms Burr, who has been nursing for over 40 years, said the RCN's A&E Nursing Association was trying to find out how common the practice was. It is against official guidelines.

A&E association vice chair Robert Sowney, vice chairman of the nursing association, backed the call for consent.

He told the Nursing Standard: "I would rather know about it and I don't think I'm different from any other parent."

However, Jamie Jones, an A&E charge nurse from Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, warned a totally open policy could have drawbacks.

"You are going have a lot of flipped-out parents."

Other nurses have argued that making pregnancy testing overt and routine could discourage parents bringing children to hospital in child abuse cases, because they know testing is being done.

Beverly Malone, Gen Sec of Royal College of Nursing
"Young people have rights"
See also:

08 Mar 00 | Health
Pregnancy campaign targets boys
16 Jul 01 | Health
Teenage myths about contraception
30 Jun 01 | Health
Condoms plan for schools
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