Dispute over consent for intrusive procedures focus of hearing

Fitness-to-practise hearing involves woman whose son died 17 hours after he was born

The hearing before the fitness-to-practise committee of the Medical Council opened on Monday. Image: Google

The hearing before the fitness-to-practise committee of the Medical Council opened on Monday. Image: Google

 

A dispute over whether consent was given for intrusive procedures is the focus of a medical practice hearing involving a woman whose son died 17 hours after he was born in Cavan General Hospital.

The fitness-to-practise committee of the Medical Council was told at the opening of the hearing on Monday there was expert evidence that a vaginal examination, and artificial rupture of membranes (ARM) leading to the breaking of a pregnant woman’s waters, could not happen without consent unless a patient’s legs were restrained.

Eileen Barrington SC, for Dr Rita Mehta, said most of the proposed evidence was that Siobhán Whelan was not in stirrups when Dr Mehta, a locum consultant of obstetrics, carried out the procedure. Dr Mehta’s position was that she received Ms Whelan’s consent, she said.

Neasa Bird, for the council, said it was not accepted that the only issue was whether stirrups were being used at the relevant time.

The inquiry heard that Ms Whelan noticed she was bleeding soon after turning up at Cavan General Hospital on May 13th, 2014.

She was taken to a room in the labour ward, where the vaginal procedure and other steps were taken, and was then taken to theatre for a Caesarean section. She had to receive life-saving surgery after the Caesarean.

Ms Whelan told the inquiry that her son, Conor, had been “begging to be rescued until that ARM finished him off”.

However, Ms Barrington said there was no evidence to support such an allegation and there was “no complaint before the inquiry in that regard”.

She asked the witness if she blamed Dr Mehta for Conor’s death.

Ms Whelan replied that she had strong feelings about the procedures being carried out “against our wishes”.

Examined by touch

Ms Whelan agreed that after Dr Mehta had arrived in the room, she palpated (examined by touch) her abdomen.

When it was put to the witness that this would not be done to a woman who was in stirrups, Ms Whelan, who had said in a statement in February that she was already in stirrups when Dr Mehta arrived in the room, said she had been in stirrups, had then been taken out of them, and was then put back into them again for the vaginal procedures.

Ms Whelan said she told Dr Mehta “No way are you breaking my waters” but she performed the procedure regardless.

She said her son was taken to the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin and then brought back to her that night. She was told there was “no hope for him” and she held him in her arms.

There had been “so many junctures where this little boy was failed” and this haunted her, she said. Her son should have started school this week, she added.

Ms Barrington said there had been an inquiry into Conor’s death and that Ms Whelan had issued medical negligence proceedings against the hospital. However, it was not until February of this year that Ms Whelan had first mentioned being in stirrups, she added.

Ms Barrington said Ms Whelan’s recollection of what happened was “coloured by unhappiness with the tragic outcome” and she had convinced herself over the years as to what had happened. She argued that this was “not what happened at all”.

“I disagree with you,” Ms Whelan said.

Andrew Whelan, who was in the hospital room at the time, told the inquiry that Dr Mehta had not sought his wife’s consent prior to the procedure.

The inquiry continues on Tuesday.