Friday 22 March 2019

Gasps in courtroom as GP is cleared of manslaughter of disabled daughter (11)

Professor Marie Cassidy. Photo: Alan Place/FusionShooters.
Professor Marie Cassidy. Photo: Alan Place/FusionShooters.

Natasha Reid

There were gasps in court yesterday as a jury found a doctor not guilty of the manslaughter of her profoundly disabled daughter by giving her too much sedative.

Dr Bernadette Scully was charged with unlawfully killing 11-year-old Emily Barut at their home at Emvale, Bachelor's Walk, Tullamore, Co Offaly.

It was alleged that she killed her by an act of gross negligence involving the administration of an excessive quantity of chloral hydrate on September 15, 2012.

Dr Scully had originally been charged with murder but that charge was later withdrawn. She was then arraigned on a manslaughter charge.

The 58-year-old had pleaded not guilty and went on trial at the Central Criminal Court two weeks ago.

Emily had microcephaly, severe epilepsy and couldn't speak or move. She had been in pain for the last eight days of her life, having had a medical procedure to replace the tube into her stomach, through which she received fluids and medication.

Ms Scully said she had administered chloral hydrate when her daughter became upset at 2am and 6am that day. She said her daughter then had a massive fit after 11am and she administered more.

She said she had given more than double in those nine hours that she had ever previously given in 24 hours. She told gardaí she knew she had given too much.

Emily died and Ms Scully tried to take her own life twice, the second time by overdosing on medication for which she had written a prescription in her elderly mother's name.

Laboratory tests showed that Emily's blood contained 10 times the therapeutic levels of the chloral hydrate's metabolite and a post-mortem exam found she had died from chloral hydrate intoxication. The State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy said that, potentially, those levels were fatal.

However, Prof Cassidy said Emily had suffered a seizure six to eight hours before her death and that any of her illnesses could have contributed. She also said that she had been at risk of a potentially fatal seizure at any time.

The State argued that the chloral hydrate was a substantial cause of death. It did not have to prove it to be the only cause.

Ms Scully's legal team argued that there was a clear indication in the post-mortem results of the possibility of a terminal seizure and Kenneth Fogarty SC said that the traumatic event that had led to the maladministration alleged was indeed a massive seizure after 11 o'clock.

The seven women and five men began considering their verdict on Thursday morning. They returned to court with their unanimous verdict of not guilty following four hours and two minutes of deliberations.

Gasps were heard in court following the announcement of the verdict. Ms Scully acknowledged her family members, some of whom began weeping.

Ms Scully and her family embraced each other before leaving the court, outside which wellwishers gathered to congratulate her.

Irish Independent

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