Woman in abortion case wanted child

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A childless woman who was given an abortion during a routine operation - although she had not known she was pregnant - desperately wanted to start a family, she told a jury yesterday.

Doctors were also unaware that Barbara Whiten, now 38, was pregnant when she was admitted to the King's Mill Hospital, Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, in 1993 for a hysterectomy operation.

A consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Reginald Dixon, 58, of Kirkby in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, who performed the operation, denies unlawfully procuring a miscarriage.

When asked if she had any children, Mrs Whiten, told Nottingham Crown Court: "I would have loved to have had a baby." She said the hospital had told her she was infertile and the operation was necessary to cure her of endometriosis, a painful condition of the womb.

"It isn't a very nice thing for a woman to come to terms with - the fact that she is infertile and to find the only course of action is to have a hysterectomy. The last thing that I thought was that I was pregnant."

The court heard that when Mr Dixon started the operation he discovered Mrs Whiten was pregnant. He tried to contact her husband by phone but could not reach him. He then continued with the operation, inevitably aborting the 11-week-old foetus.

Simeon Maskrey QC, for the prosecution, said: "Mr Dixon knew she was pregnant and decided to terminate the pregnancy, not because he had considered the Abortion Act or because he considered otherwise there would be grave permanent damage to her mental health, but because he thought that was what she would have wanted and he thought it was in her best interests.

"So he had other reasons in mind but not the reasons that made the termination lawful."

Mrs Whiten told the jury that Mr Dixon spoke to her about the abortion the day after surgery. She alleged he told her he "suspected the womb was rather swollen, I suspected there was a pregnancy. I carried on because it was what you would have wanted".

Mrs Whiten said: "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. If he had come around the curtain and hit me with a sledgehammer it would have had less effect."

But Nicola Davies QC, for Mr Dixon, said that when Mrs Whiten was told about the abortion: "You gave Mr Dixon a small smile and told him `Don't worry, you did the right thing'."

The case continues.