A judge who ordered surgery to remove a brain tumour could be carried out on a woman without her consent was today presented by her with a box of chocolates.
The woman, who has made a good recovery, told the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, she wanted to thank him for making the surgery orders and to apologise “for the confusion I caused by not giving permission to do the operation”.
Mr Justice Kelly told the woman, aged in her early fifties, he was delighted to see her looking so well and that she has made such progress. “There’s no need to apologise because it was the tumour that caused your thinking to be distorted,” he said.
Thanking her for the chocolates, he said it was the first time in 20 years on the bench he was given a gift by a litigant and this was "a red letter day" for him.
Judges cannot receive gifts but, with the woman's permission, he would give them to the nurses working at St Francis’ Hospice in Dublin, of which he is chairman, he added.
The woman smiled, thanked the judge for his "kind words" about her and said she should have brought champagne. The judge laughed and said: “That’s even worse, I’m a teetotaller.”
Judges are often criticised but rarely thanked, he added. “Thanks for saying thanks, very few do.”
At the request of David Leahy BL, for the HSE, the judge made various orders bringing to an end proceedings initiated late last year to have the woman made a ward of court after she refused to undergo surgery for the tumour.
Having heard medical evidence, the judge made interim orders last December taking the woman temporarily into wardship and permitting surgery to remove the tumour be performed at a Dublin hospital. During that hearing, the court was told the woman, from another European country but living here for several years, is single and has no living parent or siblings.
Today, the judge was told by Mr Leahy the interim orders had proven successful.
Because the medical team treating the woman consider she now has the necessary capacity to make decision about her health and welfare, counsel sought to have interim orders discharged and said there was no need to proceed with an inquiry into her capacity.
The judge discharged the interim orders. On being told by the woman hopes to resume her employment, the judge said her employer has been very fortunate to date “to have an employee as good as you".
As a result of what was described as "bizarre and dangerous" behaviour with significant paranoid symptoms, the woman was admitted involuntarily to hospital last September under the Mental Health Acts. On admission, she was described as psychotic and lacking insight into her behaviour.
After her admission, a CT scan showed she had a tumour which was considered to be causing her mental health symptoms.
Surgery was recommended but, after she refused to undergo it, court orders were sought and granted. The surgery was successful and a benign tumour affecting the woman’s congitive function was removed. She has made a good recovery and will be treated as a community outpatient over the coming months.