Wednesday 24 May 2017

Judge rules HSE can treat unborn child at risk of HIV

Tim Healy

THE Health Service Executive (HSE) has secured a High Court order allowing doctors to administer certain drugs to a child as soon as it is born to a heavily pregnant woman who is HIV positive.

The child is due to be delivered by elective caesarean section (ECS) within days.

The HSE had argued that antiretroviral (ARV) proph-ylaxis medication, administered from birth for a four-week period, would substantially reduce the risk of transmission of the HIV virus to the child.

The woman opposed the drugs being administered because, having researched them, she believed they represented a serious risk to her child.

The woman had also raised issues about whether her HIV positive diagnosis was accurate but accepted that diagnosis for the purpose of the court proceedings.

The father of the unborn child, who is no longer in a relationship with the mother, supported the HSE's position but was ruled to have no right of audience before the court.

Hearing from the father would not alter the outcome, Mr Justice George Birmingham said. The judge ruled that while the mother may be well-intentioned, her opposition to the ARV drugs would increase the risks to the child.

This was not a question of the State "acting as a super power" or "nanny knows best" but of the mother proposing to put her child "at unnecessary risk" and where there was not two reasonable divergent medical views, he ruled.

The medical opinion was unanimous these drugs should be administered because what was at risk was the possibility of a child being born with an incurable illness.

Transmission

In those circumstances, it was necessary for the court to override the views of this parent, he ruled. It was in the best interest of the child to have the risk of HIV transmission reduced as soon as possible.

He granted a declaration that it was in the best interests of the child to receive such medical treatment as doctors considered necessary, including the ARV treatment.

The issue of costs was adjourned to next Wednesday.

Felix McEnroy, counsel for the HSE, said the mother would have unlimited access to her child while the infant is receiving the treatment and would be facilitated in every way.

Irish Independent

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