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Doctor's treatment 'appalling', mother tells court

A MOTHER told the High Court yesterday that consultant psychiatrist Prof Patricia Casey advised her that drugs she took for her psychiatric illness while pregnant represented certain risks to babies.

Lisa McGillin's daughter Rebecca was born with foetal valproate syndrome (FVS), including a deformed hand and motor difficulties.

Ms McGillin told the court she understood from both Prof Casey and her gynaecologist, Dr Mary Holohan, that her child would not be at risk if she took high doses of folic acid.

She was being cross-examined by Murray McGrath SC, for Prof Casey, in the continuing action by Rebecca, suing through her father Barry McGillin, of Gainsborough Avenue, Malahide, Co Dublin, against Prof Casey, practising from the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Dublin, and Dr Holohan, practising from the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.

Ms McGillin told the court she trusted advice from Prof Casey to the effect she should come off lithium (a mood stabiliser) for the first three months of pregnancy but could continue taking Epilim, an anti-convulsant used to treat epilepsy and as a mood stabiliser. She denied she knew there was a residual risk from Epilim.

She decided herself, having read a mother and baby book, to come off all drugs about four months into pregnancy but didn't tell Prof Casey -- because the psychiatrist was "quite formidable" and might be "angry".


Prof Casey described her as "a blubbering mess" in April 2001, shortly after Rebecca's birth, and said FVS was not even proven to exist, Ms McGillin said. "Her treatment of me was appalling," she added. Her daughter was diagnosed with FVS shortly after birth and she ceased attending Prof Casey in August 2001.

It is alleged Rebecca was exposed to a risk of injury as a result of the alleged failure of the defendants to properly assess or advise her about the drugs taken by her mother before and into pregnancy. Both defendants deny the allegations.

When counsel put it to Ms McGillin that Prof Casey had, in September 1998, sent her an article about anti-epileptic agents and birth defects, she said the first time she saw that article was in documents sent by Prof Casey to Ms McGillen's solicitors. When he put to Ms McGillin that the final decision on the medication was hers, she said: "Someone has to take responsibility for what happened to my daughter".

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