Monday 29 May 2017

Comment: Bernadette Scully is innocent, but we are guilty of abandoning her

Bernadette Scully stood in the dock for all those parents of chronically disabled children who are facing Christmas alone in their individual purgatories

Bernadette Scully. Photo: Collins Courts
Bernadette Scully. Photo: Collins Courts
Bernadette Scully's solicitor Patricia Cronin reads her statement to waiting reporters.
Bernadette Scully and her partner Andrius Kozlovskis leave the court.
The State’s case was that Ms Scully, who has been her daughter’s GP all her life, had been grossly negligent when administering the sedative chloral hydrate to her at the family home in Tullamore. Photo: Collins Courts
Bernadette Scully with her partner, Andrius Kozlovskis pictured leaving the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Photo: Collins Courts
Victoria White

Victoria White

The woman is innocent. Bernadette Scully did nothing wrong on September 15, 2012, when her only child died under her care.

It’s true that GP Bernadette gave her daughter a lethal dose of chloral hydrate which may have led to her death.

However, State Pathologist Marie Cassidy said we can’t be sure it was the drug that killed her.

The poor child, with her microcephaly and chronic epilepsy, who could not speak or move, had a massive seizure six to eight hours before her death which could have killed her, and any one of her myriad other illnesses could have contributed.

Bernadette Scully's solicitor Patricia Cronin reads her statement to waiting reporters.
Bernadette Scully's solicitor Patricia Cronin reads her statement to waiting reporters.

She could have died of a seizure at any time, said Prof Cassidy. Although there was 10 times the therapeutic dose of chloral hydrate in her blood, expert evidence said people metabolise the drug at different speeds, so that a life-saving dose for some would be a lethal dose for others.

When 11-year-old Emily died, Bernadette tried twice to take her own life. Thank God she did not succeed and could stand in the dock, not only for herself, but for all those parents of chronically disabled children who are facing Christmas alone in their individual purgatories.

If Emily died from too much chloral hydrate rather than from a seizure, it was we who killed her. We left Bernadette Scully alone in the torture chamber which is the care of a profoundly disabled child and did nothing to unlock the door.

As she said herself, people aren’t “queuing up” to help you when your child is seriously disabled. They should be. Not only the child’s immediate friends and family but its community and our community.

Bernadette Scully and her partner Andrius Kozlovskis leave the court.
Bernadette Scully and her partner Andrius Kozlovskis leave the court.

No one should ever live through what Bernadette endured on September 15, 2012 and for the eight weeks when Emily screamed with pain following an operation to put a tube into her stomach.

The true horror for Bernadette was that her little girl was in agony and she couldn’t help.

The State’s case was that Ms Scully, who has been her daughter’s GP all her life, had been grossly negligent when administering the sedative chloral hydrate to her at the family home in Tullamore. Photo: Collins Courts
The State’s case was that Ms Scully, who has been her daughter’s GP all her life, had been grossly negligent when administering the sedative chloral hydrate to her at the family home in Tullamore. Photo: Collins Courts

A team of experts working in Guantanamo Bay couldn’t come up with a better torture. No human being could possibly endure such pain unless it was a human being with no heart.

Bernadette Scully has a heart, one that yearned for a baby through two cycles of IVF. She was finally blessed with a child when she was in her forties.

“Be careful what you wish for”. That phrase must have often come into the mind of her family and friends as they watched Bernadette struggling to care for her only child.

As the mother of a child with a disability much more minor than was poor Emily’s, I have lived the days of this trial as if I were in the dock myself.

Bernadette Scully with her partner, Andrius Kozlovskis pictured leaving the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Photo: Collins Courts
Bernadette Scully with her partner, Andrius Kozlovskis pictured leaving the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Photo: Collins Courts

If she had been found guilty I would have been out on the street, protesting. Because this society sent that woman virtually alone into a war zone.

That is where the parents of the chronically disabled have been left, in 2016, by a society that wants to believe in a picture-perfect world.

In previous centuries there were holes in the walls of convents where you could leave babies you couldn’t manage. Now there are a few over-stretched charities like LauraLynn and Jack and Jill and there’s “the community”.

However, there’s no community for the parents of the chronically disabled.

They keep on going because they keep on loving until every now and then something gives and a child dies or a parent dies or both.

And the community? The community is busy shopping.

The wrongful accusation of manslaughter against Bernadette Scully and her brave testimony from the dock have shone a spotlight on our society celebrating the season of goodwill with the doors and windows locked against profound disability.

If her acquittal breaks a few of those locks, it will be a fine  and fitting legacy for little Emily Barut.

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