Mothers win the right to refuse Caesareans

IN A landmark ruling at the Court of Appeal yesterday, judges declared a hospital had acted unlawfully in forcing a veterinary nurse to have her baby by Caesarean section. The woman won the right to sue the hospital, a health care trust and a social worker who organised her detention under the Mental Health Act.

Lord Justice Judge said: "She is entitled not to be forced to submit to an invasion of her body against her will, whether her own life or that of her unborn child depends on it."

The 30-year-old woman, identifiable only as Ms S, was detained by a social worker under the Mental Health Act after her GP warned she was refusing treatment for severe pre-eclampsia - a condition which threatened her life and that of her unborn baby, now a healthy two-year-old.

The appeal judges ruled that an unborn child's need for medical aid does not prevail over the right of its mother to refuse treatment. They found a High Court judge had acted wrongly in granting an injunction allowing the hospital to operate on the woman without her consent.

After yesterday's ruling, Richard Stein, the woman's solicitor, said: "The position is now clear for all medical professionals and social workers in the future that women patients can decide what they want in relation to treatment over their births."

Ann Furedi, director of the Birth Control Trust, said: "Pregnant women are not walking wombs but individuals who have the same right as anybody else to refuse medical treatment and reject doctors' advice.

"Usually a pregnant woman and her doctors want the same outcome - but when a conflict arises the woman's decision must prevail. It is her body and her autonomy at stake."

The charity MIND welcomed the ruling and said it knew of at least five operations that had been forcibly carried out in the last two years.

Ms S was a single woman who was 36 weeks pregnant when she went to register with a NHS practice in south London in April 1996. Told by doctors that she had pre-eclampsia, she rejected an induced delivery.

The judge said: "She fully understood the potential risks but rejected the advice. She wanted her baby to be born naturally." The court heard that Ms S wanted to go to Wales to have her baby in a barn.

Social worker Louize Collins wrote at the time that Ms S "acknowledged that she is probably depressed, she has had many difficulties of late with relationships, housing, changing jobs and indeed being pregnant with a child that she says she doesn't want".

Ms Collins successfully applied for an order under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act after Ms S adamantly refused to accept the advice of doctors. The social worker also wrote that Ms S had recorded in writing her "extreme objection to any medical or surgical intervention".

After Ms S had been transferred to St George's Hospital, south London, an application was made to the High Court to dispense with her consent to treatment. The judge who granted the injunction, Mrs Justice Hogg, was told wrongly that Ms S was in labour.

Although Ms S did not physically resist when told she was having the operation, Lord Justice Judge said this was not consent but "submission". He said: "How can a forced invasion of a competent adult's body against her will even for the most laudable of motives ... be ordered without irremediably damaging the principle of self determination?"

The judge, together with Lady Justice Butler-Sloss and Lord Justice Robert Walker, agreed that while pregnancy increases the personal responsibilities of a woman it does not diminish her entitlement to decide whether or not to undergo medical treatment.

Lord Justice Judge said that Miss Collins and the doctors had been motivated by a "genuine desire" to do what was best for Ms S and her baby. The judges said they "admired the courage" of the social worker in her attempts to deal with "an unusual, unreasonable mother-to-be".

The hospitals involved, and Merton council, are expected to appeal to the House of Lords.

Leading article, page 20

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn