The Court of Protection has ordered that a caesarean section should be carried out on a woman who has mental health problems.
The woman, who is in her 30’s, is 36 weeks pregnant. The court was told that she suffers from a schizophrenia-like psychotic disorder and has a liver condition which poses a risk to her and her unborn baby.
Although her mental health condition was said to be intermittent, the judge found that there was ‘compelling evidence’ that at present the woman lacks the capacity to evaluate the medical advice that she is given.
It was unclear if the woman had given her consent for the caesarean to take place.
Her father gave evidence in support of intervention, saying that his daughter was in “such a state” that a “normal birth” would be “far too stressful” for her.
The judge explained that it was clear that there was a risk to the woman and the unborn child and that a caesarean section was in the best interests of both.
It was decided that the woman’s parents will care for the child after the birth until the she is able to take care of the infant herself.
A similar case last year caused widespread criticism in the press. An Italian woman who suffered from ‘psychotic episodes’ underwent a caesarean section by order of the court after it was decided that it was in the best interests of the child and mother. The child was adopted in the UK earlier this year.
Why did the court make this decision?
Mr Justice Hayden, who made the decision to order the caesarean, analysed the case in a public hearing. He decided that the health authority which had made the application to perform the surgery – City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust – could be named.
“There is compelling evidence that (the woman) at this point lacks capacity to evaluate the medical advice that she is being given,” said Mr Justice Hayden.
“There is equally compelling evidence that (the woman) would, if well, put the needs of the baby even before her own and that she would therefore follow the course recommended.”
“The family recognise that. All support the hospital and the doctors,” he said. “So the decision for me, although a heavy one, is not difficult because the way forward for (the woman) is so clear.”
But he added: “It is right that the doctors, lawyers and courts and the family should scrutinise all the available options before anybody embarks on a course that is as intrusive as this.”
And he went on: “It is also vital that the public should be reassured that these hugely difficult decisions cause all those involved in them to take every possible care.”