U.K.: Controversial forced caesarian case set to bring discussion to parliament

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UK Royal Courts of Justice
Outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, England where the controversial adoption case was decided last February for an Italy-based mother who received a ‘compulsory’ U.K. High Court order for a caesarian birth along with the release of her rights for custody of her child during the time she stayed in the U.K. while under mental health watch. The court decision denying the woman rights of birth options was made under legal parameters outlined in the Mental Health Act 2007. Image Alamy

(WNN) Denver, Colorado, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat member of the British Parliament who is also the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign chairman, is bringing the issue of forced caesarians, family adoption laws and the ‘misuse’ of the Mental Health Act in the United Kingdom to the floor for reform discussions this week. Forced caesarians are currently legally allowed inside the U.K. under certain circumstances, specifically when a pregnant woman appears to be mentally unstable.

In August 2012 when a pregnant Italian woman, who’s name has not been released publicly, came from Italy to England attend a 2 week Ryanair training course at Stansted Airport north of London, she called the local police in a panic. She told them that the passports she had for her 2 children, who had been left in Italy with family, could not be found. The police then contacted the woman’s mother and grandmother in Italy who conveyed that the the pregnant woman was bipolar and that she must have just forgotten to take her meds.

Instead of bringing the woman to a public hospital emergency ward to assess her needs for proper medication, she was told by police that they wanted to bring her to a hospital to assess the safety of her unborn child. Instead they brought her directly to a psychiatric unit where she was kept under mental health observation for 5 weeks. Upon arrival at the unit she was restrained and not allowed to leave under the rules of the Mental Health Act 2007. She also was also forced to undergo a caesarian section by court order after 5 weeks in the psychiatric unit as her child, a daughter, was born and soon taken into the custody of Social Services and the governing body of Essex county.

Now, as a 15-month-old infant daughter, the child may be up for public adoption in the U.K.

In a legal bid to block the process of U.K. adoption, the Italian mother is still being denied any rights to the child, say her attorneys. The father of the child, who lives in the U.S. was also denied when he asked that his sister, the child’s aunt, be allowed to adopt the child instead. In February 2013 the Italian birth mother’s case before the High Court was denied based on concerns that the mother may suffer from a form of “mental relapse.”

Human rights needs for women who suffer under the U.K.’s Mental Health Act can be easily recognized, say advocates for equality and women’s rights in the region.

“She [the Italian mother] was restrained by orderlies, sectioned under the Mental Health Act and told that she must stay in the hospital. By now Essex social services were involved, and five weeks later she was told she could not have breakfast that day. When no explanation was forthcoming, she volubly protested,”  outlines columnist for The Telegraph, a respected news daily in the U.K. “She was strapped down and forcibly sedated, and when she woke up hours later, found she was in a different hospital and that her baby had been removed by caesarean section while she was unconscious and taken into care by social workers. She was not allowed to see her baby daughter, and later learnt that a High Court judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, had given the social workers permission to arrange for the child to be delivered,” continued Booker.

But others who speak in the region for the rights of the child, instead of the rights of the mother, may see the issues differently.

“The mother was able to see her baby on the day of birth and the following day. Essex County Council’s Social Services obtained an Interim Care Order from the County Court because the mother was too unwell to care for her child… …Historically, the mother has two other children which she is unable to care for due to orders made by the Italian authorities,” outlined the Essex County Council on December 2.

“Child taken from womb by social services: it’s not always wrong,” was the title of a recent essay on The Telegraph by solicitor-advocate Sophie Khan, who works with cases that highlight the needs for greater police responsibility in the region.

Social workers in Essex County, England say they followed the ‘rule of law’ in upholding the 1983 Mental Health Act and the 2007 amended version of the legal rule. Because of the ambiguous wording of the law and the handling in the case it is suspected the woman was forced against her will to undergo her medical procedure under caesarian. Under law the Mental Health Act can kick in if someone displays “any disorder or disability of mind.”

‘Disorder of mind’ should not be used against women indiscriminately as it can be assessed incorrectly and too subjectively, outline numerous human rights defenders in the region, including natural birth expert and social anthropologist and former professor Sheila Kitzinger who believes that ‘compulsory’ surgery of any kind denies the rights of the patient.

“In Britain, however, the law is unequivocal: compulsory surgical or invasive treatment of a male or female patient is illegal. It is as illegal to force a woman to submit to Caesarean section as it would be to force anyone to give bone marrow or a kidney, even to someone who desperately needed a transplant, and even if that person was his own child,” said Kitzinger in a 1998 essay, “Court-Ordered Caesarians in the UK

The issue of forced medical procedures that include caesarians is a controversial subject that is set to be discussed more in the U.K., especially as the most recent cases are discussed in the Parliament.

“Forced surgery and separation of mother and infant is the stuff of nightmares that those responsible will struggle to defend in courts of law and decency,” outlined Shami Chakrabartid recently to the press. Chakrabartid is the director for a local U.K. human rights organization Liberty, also known as the National Council for Civil Liberties which has worked since 1934 to “protect basic rights and freedoms through the courts, in Parliament and in the wider community.”

“We believe that the professional regulators should review their advice to clinicians regarding the use of sectioning powers. This review should make it absolutely clear that sectioning [forced mental health detainment under treatment] in place of voluntarily admission is never acceptable, that patients must be made aware that they have the right to discharge themselves unless they are detained under a properly authorised section, and that all clinicians have a duty to highlight concerns if they believe these principles are being breached,” said the U.K. House of Commons Health Committee in July 2013.