Agoraphobic pregnant woman can be taken to hospital by force to give birth, judge rules

Young expecting mother had not left home in years

Liam James
Friday 14 May 2021 02:13
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Judge ruled hospital birth in woman’s 'best interests’
Judge ruled hospital birth in woman’s 'best interests’

An agoraphobic pregnant woman can be forcibly removed from her home in order to give birth in hospital, a judge has ruled.

The woman had not left home in nearly four years due to her fear but the judge said it would be in her best interests to allow trained staff to take her to hospital to deliver the child.

He said the woman should be restrained, with proportionate force, only if necessary and methods should not include “mechanical restraint”, the use of a “prone restraint position” or any techniques which apply “pressure to the diaphragm or abdomen”.

Mr Justice Holman said everyone involved in the case agreed it would be best if the woman left home so she could give birth in hospital in a "planned way".

The issue was whether the use of force should be permitted, in circumstances where no emergency had arisen, he said.

Bosses at NHS trusts responsible for her care asked the judge to make the decision. Lawyers representing the trusts said the use of force should be approved.

But lawyers representing the woman had disagreed, and said she should be allowed to give birth at home unless an emergency arose.

The 21-year-old woman, who appeared in court via video link, said she wanted a home birth because of her agoraphobia.

The judge said the woman's partner and mother thought she should give birth in hospital.

He said he was also satisfied that the woman would want to give birth in hospital but for her agoraphobia.

Mr Justice Holman, a High Court judge based in the Family Division, said taking her from home by force was "of course unattractive".

Specialists said she could suffer psychiatric harm if force was used. But the judge said evidence showed there was a risk that something could go wrong if the woman gave birth at home, with potential for "catastrophe".

He told the expecting mother: "I think you should go to hospital and have this baby, it will avoid potential risks and disaster if something goes wrong.

"I think it is better than some awful rush job in the middle of the night."

He added: "I know it will be an ordeal for you."

The judge made the ruling on Thursday after overseeing a hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who may lack the mental capacity to take decisions are considered.

Additional reporting by agencies

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