Thursday 14 December 2017

Doctors can induce birth in woman with mental age of eight

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Tim Healy

Doctors will be permitted to induce the birth of a baby of a young woman deemed to have the intellectual capacity of an eight-year-old.

President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly granted the orders to the HSE permitting induction and, if necessary, emergency caesarean section.

The orders were sought due to concerns about the woman's capacity to consent to appropriate management of delivery should a situation of foetal distress or medical crisis arise.

Recent scans showed the foetus is smaller than normal for late stage pregnancy, presenting a higher risk of foetal morbidity and mortality, the court was told.

The judge said he was satisfied in principle the orders were necessary in the best interests of the woman and her unborn baby.

Questions also "need to be asked" as to how a woman "with a mental age of eight comes to be pregnant at all", he said. While aged in her 20s, the court was dealing with a person with a mental capacity "well below" that.

The court had heard the child's father also has an intellectual impairment.

Earlier, the woman's treating obstetrician said he never previously sought such orders in his long career but was concerned about the woman's "childlike" approach to her pregnancy and if she understood the implications of various modes of delivery and the small size of her foetus.

Childlike

The woman is 38 weeks pregnant and had told him she was looking forward to the birth of her child and had agreed to induction, he said.

He considered her "very childlike" and said she agreed to everything.

His concern, given her intellectual disability, was her mental state and response might change depending on progress of delivery.

Counsel for the woman's court-appointed guardian stressed the main concern was to do what was best for the woman and baby.

While not opposing the orders, this application came as a "surprise" because engagement between the woman, her parents and doctors had been very positive during the pregnancy. The family had concerns whether court intervention was necessary and if this application was "a bit heavy-handed" and hoped there would be no need to implement the orders.

Mr Justice Kelly said he would make orders permitting induction of labour and, if necessary, a caesarean section, and associated treatments.

He was satisfied those were necessary in the best interests of the woman and baby.

Irish Independent

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