Sunday 22 September 2019

'You're not being asked to determine if accused was a good mother' jury told in GP trial

Bernadette Scully: Wept in court as routine of caring for her daughter Emily was outlined to the jury Picture: Collins
Bernadette Scully: Wept in court as routine of caring for her daughter Emily was outlined to the jury Picture: Collins
Bernadette Scully (58) of Emvale, Bachelor’s Walk, Tullamore, is charged with the manslaughter of her daughter, Emily Barut (11). Photo: Collins Courts
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The jury in the trial of a GP charged with the manslaughter of her profoundly disabled daughter have been told that the prosecution did not have to prove that chloral hydrate was the only cause of death but was "a substantial" cause of death.

Closing statements for both sides have been heard in the trial at the Central criminal court.

Bernadette Scully from Emvale, Bachelor's Walk, Tullamore has denied the manslaughter of her 11-year-old daughter, Emily Barut, by an act of gross negligence on 15 September 2012, involving the administration of a toxic level of the sedative chloral hydrate.

Prosecuting counsel Tara Burns told the jury they were not being asked to determine whether or not Dr Scully was a good mother and said no one was questioning her love and care to her child over the years.

However she said that what is at issue was  the events of 15 September 2012.

She said the prosecution was not contending that Dr Scully intended to kill her daughter or that her actions were premeditated because that would be a murder charge.

Ms Burns said the charge was one of manslaughter and the prosecution must prove the accused had a duty of care that was breached by an act of gross negligence.

She claimed that as a mother and a GP, the accused had a duty of care and would have known the safe level of chloral hydrate.

She said that by her own admission Dr Scully  had said that she had an 'absolute rule' never to administer more than 20ml of chloral hydrate within a 24 hour period which was in line with what the experts said.

However, she said, on December 15, "Ms Scully broke all those rules."

By Ms Scully's account, she had already administered 34ml by 11 am, Ms Burns claimed.

And although Dr Scully was 'quite categorical' in court about what she administered, she suggested there was a question mark over what she says she administered because of a number of 'discrepancies' in what she said and claimed it equated with "someone not knowing how much was administered."

Ms Burns suggested this was not surprising in someone who was as upset and tired as Dr Scully was that night.

She said Dr Scully was acting as a GP that night and medicine has to be respected with limits, time limits and quantities are important.

Ms Burns claimed Dr Scully's conduct after her daughter's death, with two attempts to take her own life, failing to tell her partner Emily was "dead in the bedroom" and the note she wrote, constituted evidence that she accepted she was responsible for Emily's death.

In closing, Ken Fogarty SC for the Defence told the jury that he guaranteed to then that they would never come across a case like this again and said they had gone on an "emotional rollercoaster" together over the course of the trial.

Having lost her daughter, his client was now facing accusations that she killed her, he said.

All these suggestions were made in a "very very loose examination of the life of Emily and Bernadette," he commented.

He told the jury they know how much she had wanted this child, with two previous IVF attempts ending in failure.

"The third time she was the happiest woman on this planet," he said but a scan had shown there was something not quite right and the baby would be "more dependent on her than she would ever realise."

She cared for her daughter on her own, working also in her medical practise and had "an insatiable appetite for helping other people," he said.

He suggested medics had told her "don't put in the feeding tube because it's the survival of the fittest" and it basically meant "leave the child alone and it'll die."

On seeking counselling, she had told to "go back to work and upskill."

"Upskill?" questioned Mr Fogarty, adding: "she was falling asunder. Everything in her life was becoming unstuck."

He said nobody was knocking at the door to help her.

The duty of care on her was greater in her as a mother because was a GP and this imposed a criminal liability, he said.

Mr Fogarty commented that it said much about our society that it could heap such responsibility on the shoulders of one woman and when it goes wrong, turns around and say: "You killed her."

He said the post mortem showed clear evidence of chronic damage done to Emily's brain over the years with red neutrons indicating a significant event at least six hours beforehand.

But this traumatic event was being completely ignored, he said.

Mr Fogarty also said a toxic level of chloral hydrate did not mean fatal and he pointed out that the State pathologist Marie Cassidy said that Emily could have died of a terminal seizure at any time.

The jury is expected to begin their deliberations on Wednesday.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News