Monday 20 January 2020

Court backs 'pill' jab for woman in HSE's care

Mr Justice Peter Kelly: granted HSE an order for the injection. Photo: Frank McGrath
Mr Justice Peter Kelly: granted HSE an order for the injection. Photo: Frank McGrath

Tim Healy

A contraceptive injection can be administered to a mentally ill young woman who has expressed inconsistent views as to whether or not she consented to the injection, the High Court has directed.

Doctors and psychiatrists involved in the woman's care, and a consultant asked to independently assess her, all expressed concern that she is at real risk of another pregnancy and that would be seriously detrimental to her mental and physical health.

Aged in her early 20s and with a long history of mental illness, the woman gave birth in recent months to a child by caesarean section.

The court permitted the section to be carried out because she was not communicating with doctors in relation to the pregnancy and mode of delivery. The child is now in care.

The woman's mental health appears to have improved in recent months but she remains in a HSE facility.

Yesterday, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said he was satisfied from the evidence to grant the HSE orders, permitting the three-month contraceptive injection to be administered.

Having been told the woman seems to believe that she has no option except to return to the premises where the father of her child lives, when she had said she does not want a sexual relationship with him, the judge directed the HSE to examine other options for her return to normal living and adjourned the matter for two weeks.

All the evidence suggests that another pregnancy in circumstances where the woman has not made a full psychiatric recovery would be detrimental to her mental and physical health, he said.

The woman had also given inconsistent responses when asked for consent to the injection, he noted. Most recently, she was said to have agreed to it when she had four days earlier opposed it, saying that while she did not want to get pregnant, nor did she want unnecessary medicine.

Earlier David Leahy BL, for the HSE, said her treating psychiatrist had reported, while the woman was previously non-verbal, she is now communicating, eating, drinking and complying with medications. Her psychiatrist considered the risk of another pregnancy was "extremely high" and that the woman, who exhibits a "child-like quality", underestimates the risk to her health from unprotected sex.

Natalie McDonnell BL, representing the woman's interests, said she had said she did not want to get pregnant again.

A "robust" plan should be put in place by the HSE to ensure her safety if she visits the man unsupervised and also for an alternative living arrangement for her.

While the woman had said she regards the man as her former partner and does not want a sexual relationship with him, his views in that regard are not known, the court was told.

Irish Independent

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