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'I never told mum-to-be she could have abortion'

Psychiatrist Patricia Casey strongly denies allegations that she advised a pregnant woman that termination of her disabled unborn child was an option for her, the High Court has heard.

It followed claims in proceedings brought by the daughter of the woman against Professor Casey and a gynaecologist in which it is alleged they failed to give proper advice about the effects of drugs she was prescribed with during her pregnancy.

It is alleged Rebecca McGillin, now aged eight, was exposed to a risk of injury as a result of the failure of Prof Casey and Dr Mary Holohan to properly assess the nature and type of prescription drugs being taken her mother Lisa Glynn McGillin (40).

Rebecca was born with a hand deformity and has balancing and other difficulties.

Prof Casey had allegedly diagnosed Ms McGillin some years earlier as having mild bipolar disorder.

On the second day of the case yesterday, Murray McGrath SC, for Prof Casey, told the court a claim in relation to the alleged termination advice, which had been pleaded in court papers, was not being pursued in the child's case. Ms McGillen has separate proceedings, which have yet to be heard.

It was alleged Prof Casey had discussed options, including termination, after Ms McGillen contacted her in a distressed state about a January 2001 scan indicating her foetus had a hand deformity and growth retardation.

Mr McGrath told the judge the termination suggestion was strongly refuted and both sides had agreed it would not be dealt with in the child's case. Prof Casey has a very high profile as a pro-life anti-abortionist over many years, counsel said.

She now "finds this allegation highlighted in media reports in a case in which she will not have an opportunity to put her case, which is that she never advised, condoned or acquiesced in any suggestion of an abortion," Mr McGrath said.

His side wanted that put on the record now, counsel added.

Aongus O Brolchain SC, for Rebecca, said the claim concerning the alleged conversation between Prof Casey and Lisa McGillen was a "very hotly contested" issue in the action by Lisa McGillen but was not an issue in the child's case.


Counsel for the sides had agreed between themselves, when opening Rebecca's action on Tuesday, Mr O Brolchain would not refer in open court to that claim but the claim had been "aired publicly".

That claim was in the pleadings in the case but the pleadings were specifically not opened in open court, he added.

He appreciated the pleadings in the child's case "are opened in the technical sense" but his side was not relying on the claim concerning the alleged discussion, and in fairness to Prof Casey, it was appropriate he clarify that.

The issue of the alleged discussion may be raised in Ms McGillen's proceedings but that was dependent on the judge's finding on liability in the child's case and was not relevant to the issues the court had to determine in the latter case, he also said.

Mr Justice John Quirke told Mr McGrath the claim about the alleged termination "discussion" was in the pleadings and there was not very much counsel could do about it now. "But you have now put Prof Casey's position very clearly and it doesn't appear to arise in this case," he added.

Giving evidence yesterday, Ms McGillen, who suffers from depression, said she was never advised by Prof Casey or Dr Holohan to cease taking a prescription drug on grounds it could cause birth defects in pregnancy.

Ms McGillen said Prof Casey has prescribed the drug Epilim for her in April 1997 to stabilise her moods and she continued taking that and other medication until about four months into her pregnancy with Rebecca, who was born in April 2001.

She was never told Epilim, primarily used to treat epilepsy but also used to treat depression, was a teratogenic drug (a drug that can affect the development of the foetus), she said. Had she been told it was, she would have ceased taking it, she added. The case continues.