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Doctor did tell me drugs could harm baby, admits mum

A MOTHER has told the High Court that consultant psychiatrist Prof Patricia Casey had 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 Sodium Valproate Syndrome (SPS), a condition with features 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 was not at risk if she took high doses of folic acid.

She was being cross-examined by Murray McGrath, for Prof Casey, in the continuing action by Rebecca.

She is suing through her father Barry McGillin, of Gainsborough Avenue, Malahide, Co Dublin, against Prof Casey, practising from the Mater Misercordiae Hospital, Dublin, and Dr Holohan, practising from the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.

She 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 primarily used to treat epilepsy but also used as a mood stabiliser. She denied that she knew all along there was a residual risk from Epilim.

She later decided herself, having read a Mother & Baby book, to come off all drugs about four months into her pregnancy but did not tell Prof Casey she had done so because Prof Casey was "quite formidable".

Prof Casey had described her as "a blubbering mess" when she attended her in April 2001 shortly after Rebecca's birth and had also said SPS was not even proven to exist, she said.

"Her treatment of me was appalling," she said. Her daughter had been diagnosed with SPS shortly after birth and she ceased attending Prof Casey in August 2001.

In the action, it is alleged Rebecca was exposed to a risk of injury as a result of alleged failure of the defendants to properly assess the nature and type of prescription drugs taken by her mother before and into pregnancy and to give any or any proper advice as to certain effects of those drugs, including Epilim.

Both defendants deny the allegations.

Yesterday, Ms McGillin agreed Prof Casey, who treated her for psychiatric illness including depression from 1997, told her in September 1998 that Lithium and Epilim represented risks to the foetus in pregnancy and posted her various articles that same month relating to drugs and pregnancy, plus further articles in August 2000, shortly after she became pregnant.

She agreed she was being told Epilim represented a heightened risk of neural tube defects but said both Prof Casey and Dr Mary Holohan, told her taking folic acid would "negate" the risk from Epilim. She trusted them.

The case continues.