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
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
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

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence