Doctors must not allow their personal moral standards to influence their treatment of pregnant women, Irish Medical Council president Prof Kieran Murphy has said.

Prof Murphy told the opening session of Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children hearing into abortion this morning that those with a conscientious objection to a course of action must explain this to patents and make the names of other doctors available to them.

"The right of conscientious objection must be balanced against the right of the patient, particularly in the case of a medical emergency," he added.

The committee has begun three days of hearings on the Government decision to legalise abortion in limited circumstances at some point next year. More than 40 witnesses and 20 groups will give evidence, among them medical and legal experts, the churches, civil society bodies, pro-choice and anti-abortion groups and politicians.

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Constitutional lawyers William Binchy (Pro-Life Amendment Campaign) and Mary Robinson (Anti-Amendment Campaign) debate the legal implications of the result of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution on a Today Tonight Referendum Results special, 8 September 1983.