Paranoid woman begs court to let her abort baby
she gave up pills to protect
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Monday 20 May 2013
A pregnant woman suffering from “severe” mental health problems has made an impassioned plea to a High Court judge, asking that she be granted an abortion.
The 37-year-old, who suffers from bipolar and paranoid delusions, had planned the pregnancy with her husband and previously seemed happy to be expecting a child. But last month, the woman, who is 23 weeks pregnant, became convinced that she wanted a termination.
Mr Justice Holman heard the case in the Court of Protection yesterday, which is expected to continue for several days.
The woman, known only as 'SB' is currently staying in secure mental health facility. For the woman's protection, neither her identity nor the name of the health authority can be reported.
She wants to have a medical abortion, rather than surgery, which means a decision needs to be made "within a matter of days".
She suffers from what doctors say are paranoid beliefs that she is being persecuted by her husband, mother and social services. Her husband has been restricted from visiting her since last week, because she assaulted him.
She is thought to have stopped taking drugs to treat her mental health issues at some point after becoming pregnant, in order to protect the health of her baby. Her doctor said the timing of this fitted with her gradual mental decline, culminating in her change of heart about the unborn baby last month.
She wanted to attend the hearing but her doctor advised against it saying attendance might worsen her condition. Instead she was allowed to submit a 23 minute video plea to the judge, begging for permission to have an abortion. In the film, recorded on Sunday, the judge reported her as saying: "If you force me to have this baby and lock me up I will try to kill myself." She is said to have added: "There's nothing wrong with me".
Her solicitor also reported her saying that she would kill the baby if she was forced to carry it to term.
The judge said he was "quite affected" by the DVD and decided to allow her to attend Tuesday's proceedings.
Dr T, a consultant psychiatrist employed by the NHS institution that has brought the proceedings said that her desire to have an abortion arose when she became unwell and that before that she had been enthusiastic about pregnancy. He said he was "100 per cent" clear she did not have the capacity to make the decision herself. "In my opinion she doesn't understand everything she needs to."
Previously close to her mother, seeing her every day, she is understood to have communicated much less in recent weeks. Her mother told the court: "I know my daughter very well. I've experienced several times when she's been in hospital. I know the symptoms; I know my daughter when she's well and she's definitely not well now."
The patient's husband was said to have told his barrister: "she's not herself". He did not speak in court, but observed the proceedings, often with his head in his hands.
Her doctors believe she has had access to cannabis in the secure mental health facility because she associates with those known to deal it - and because she has smelled of the drug.
Dr T said: "Drugs are available on the unit. There are some very creative patients on the unit that smuggle [cannabis] in in various ways. This weekend a different patient told us that she had been asking him to supply cannabis and he refused on the grounds that she was pregnant."
Dr T said he believed she had "the ability to understand the court proceedings," but that she was not capable of making an informed decision about her unborn child. "Because of her persecutory delusions she refuses to take on information which she should be taking on to perform a balanced decision."
Judge Holman also took the opportunity to tell lawyers to make further efforts in making evidence in Court of Protection cases available to the press. He said that the press needed to be given full information about cases such as these "otherwise misunderstanding of what goes on in the Court of Protection will continue and we will only have ourselves to blame."
The case continues today.
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