Surgeon charged with aborting foetus without consent

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The Independent Online
A SURGEON at a National Health Service trust hospital has been charged with aborting an 11-week-old foetus without a woman's consent during a routine hysterectomy operation.

The woman, Barbara Whiten, 35, says she did not know she was pregnant when she agreed to the operation as treatment for a painful womb disorder in March 1993. She and her husband, Michael, said they had been trying for a baby for years.

The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed yesterday that Reginald Dixon, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at King's Mill Hospital, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, has been charged under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 with unlawfully procuring a miscarriage of Mrs Whiten. He will appear before magistrates in Mansfield on 16 November.

The charge follows an investigation by Nottinghamshire police who were notified of the incident in April last year. A file was passed to the CPS a year ago. Two other cases of alleged abortion without consent at the same hospital were considered by the CPS earlier this year but no charges were brought.

John Friend, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, declined to comment on the case yesterday.

'It is tragic for the individual and for the gynaecologist,' he said. 'I do not believe any gynaecologist does something which is not in the best interests of a patient. Once this case has been heard there may be things we need to look at again, and possibly tighten up, but we don't know that.'

Mr and Mrs Whiten, who have both undergone counselling since the operation, declined to comment yesterday. However, a friend of the family said that Mrs Whiten was relieved charges had been brought. 'It is awful to be a victim of what you think is a crime and feel that society is not going to take action on your behalf,' the friend said.

Mrs Whiten, a part-time lecturer in further education, lives with her husband and his two sons from a previous marriage in Kirby, Ashfield. She developed endometriosis, a chronic disorder of the womb lining, in her early thirties and doctors told her that this reduced her chances of conceiving. She believed she was infertile, and when drugs failed to relieve the pain and bleeding, she agreed to a hysterectomy. She says she was not given a pregnancy test before the operation.

During the operation on 8 March it is alleged that Mr Dixon removed the foetus without the consent of the Whitens. When it became evident that Mrs Whiten was pregnant, an attempt was apparently made to contact her husband but he had already left the hospital. Mrs Whiten says she was told of the abortion the day after.

A spokeswoman for King's Mill said that hospital managers were 'disappointed and saddened' by the CPS decision. 'We shall continue to give Mr Dixon our full support. He has served the hospital and community well over the last 13 years, and we and his colleagues continue to have every confidence in him.'

(Photograph omitted)

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