Midwife guilty of professional misconduct
Home birth advocate’s name removed by High Court from register of nurses
Ann Ó Ceallaigh: has three weeks to appeal the decision but has indicated she will not be challenging it for financial reasons. Photograph: Collins/Courts
A home birth midwife has had her name removed from the nurses’ register after being found guilty of professional misconduct over the management of a woman’s birth eight years ago.
The decision of the High Court to approve the deregistration of Ann Ó Ceallaigh follows almost 20 years of proceedings between the domiciliary midwife and the medical authorities over this and other cases.
Ms Ó Ceallagh has three weeks to appeal the court’s decision but indicated yesterday that she would not be challenging it for financial reasons.
The court confirmed the decision of the Nursing and Midwifery Board (formerly An Bord Altranais) to strike off Ms Ó Ceallaigh after its fitness to practise committee identified a series of shortcomings in her engagement with the woman between November 2006 and April 2007.
The committee, which adjudicated on the case in private, found that she had failed to comply with Bord Altranais guidelines, failed to recommend to the woman a transfer to a maternity hospital during three days of labour in April 2007 and failed to keep a record of her discussions with the woman.
She was also found to have failed to diagnose and discuss with the woman the abnormal progress of her labour and failed to give appropriate consideration to the “malpositioning” of the head of the foetus.
The committee ruled that she had failed to adequately carry out resuscitation on the woman’s baby and failed to accurately communicate relevant information to staff in the hospital to which the woman was eventually transferred. The child was stillborn.
The hearing in relation to the allegation against Ms Ó Ceallaigh was delayed by a number of years after she took legal proceedings alleging objective bias against her. Last year, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected this claim, thereby allowing the inquiry to proceed.
The complaint was made by the hospital to which the woman was referred. The woman herself did not make a complaint against Ms Ó Ceallaigh.
She was previously before the board’s fitness to practise committee in 1997 in relation to a woman who was brought to Holles Street hospital after three days in labour. The case, which attracted widespread attention, was seen as a test case for the practice of home births in the State.
In 2000, she was cleared of professional misconduct but censured and had conditions attached to her practice. A report found she should have been more “vigilant and pre-emptive” in seeking further intervention for the baby, who was born by Caesarean section in the hospital.
Ms Ó Ceallaigh took a successful Supreme Court challenge to an injunction restraining her from practising as a home birth midwife, and also won the right for her expert witnesses to attend the inquiry.
Up to 100 mothers and children demonstrated in support of her at some of the court hearings. However, she failed in attempts to have court hearings and the inquiry heard in public. The various proceedings cost An Bord Altranais over £1.5 million at the time.
She returned to practice after these legal battles but was forced to stop work as a midwife when the nursing board began investigating the later complaint relating to the 2007 birth.
Having been unsuccessful on a third visit to the Supreme Court last year, she has yet to hear whether the board will be pursuing her for its legal costs.