Friday 24 November 2017

Home-birth case woman not liable for State's €100,000 costs

Aodhan O'Faolain and Ray Managh

A PREGNANT woman who lost her High Court bid to force the HSE to assist her in having a home birth, will not have to pay state legal costs, significantly more than €100,000.

However she will have to pay her own legal costs.

Last month, Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley dismissed Aja Teehan's (pictured) action against the HSE and the Minister for Health and adjourned the question of costs until yesterday. Judge O'Malley had decided that Ms Teehan, a university lecturer, was not entitled to compel the HSE to accept liability for risk involved in a home birth and which it did not believe was justifiable.

Today the minister and the HSE sought orders that Ms Teehan pay their legal costs.

Both argued that no point of public importance had been raised in the case and that the normal practice, where the losing party should pay all the legal costs, should apply.

However, Ms Teehan's lawyers argued that no order in regards to costs should be made. They claimed that the normal practice should be departed from as Ms Teehan had raised issues of public importance in her action. The judge agreed and said the case had brought clarification to certain matters.

Judge O'Malley said she would not make any order in relation to the costs of the action, which means that each side will have to pay their own legal fees.

Ms Teehan, who was not in court, is expecting her second child on October 13, and wanted to give birth at her home in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, assisted by an HSE midwife.

Her first child was born following a caesarean section. She claimed an HSE blanket policy of refusal to cover home births for women who have previously had caesarean-section births, meant a midwife would not get indemnity cover to attend the delivery.

In her judgment last month dismissing Ms Teehan's action, Judge O'Malley said the issue of insurance cover had been at the heart of the problem.

The judge said while Ms Teehan argued the risk in her case was minute, there was no suggestion she would waive liability regarding any injury resulting from engaging a midwife for a home birth.

Ms Teehan was asking the HSE to assume the burden of liability relating to a risk it considered, on reasonable grounds, was better avoided.

Ms Teehan had sought an order quashing an HSE decision earlier this year, refusing her application for a home birth.

She claimed the HSE's refusal breached her constitutional rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Irish Independent

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