Waterford hospital sought court order to compel woman to have surgical delivery
Waterford regional Hospital Were Mrs Kiely Died of Legionnaires. Photo P.J.Browne
AN Mac CORMAIC
A pregnant woman whose refusal to undergo a
Caesarean section led a hospital to seek a court order to force her to have the procedure has successfully given birth.
At an emergency sitting of the High Court on Saturday morning, lawyers for Waterford Regional Hospital asked the court to compel the woman, who was 13 days overdue, to undergo the procedure. The court was told that scans on the foetus were not reassuring and that doctors believed there could be a risk for the woman and her unborn child if a natural birth was attempted.
Just minutes before Mr Justice John Hedigan was due to deliver his ruling, however, a barrister for the hospital told the court the woman had given consent for an emergency section. It is understood she successfully gave birth on Saturday afternoon.
‘A grave risk’
The court had heard the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons but was referred to as A, gave birth to a baby boy by Caesarean section in December 2010. That procedure left a scar on the woman’s uterus and, if the scar had ruptured during a natural delivery, there would be “a grave risk” to the woman and her baby, according to an affidavit by Dr Ahmed Osama Aiat, a locum consultant obstetrician at the hospital.
The baby could die or have severe brain damage and the woman herself was at significant risk of a haemorrhage.
Given that she was 13 days overdue, the placenta was ageing and the blood supply to the baby was diminishing. “This again increases the risk of intra uterine death,” according to the affidavit.
Scans showed the unborn baby’s head was high and not engaged in the abdomen and Dr Aiat was of the opinion that a Caesarean was required.
The woman told doctors she would like to deliver naturally, the court heard, but that if there was an emergency over the weekend, she would consent to a Caesarean section.
However, Dr John Birmingham, a consultant obstetrician who gave evidence by telephone, said she was vacillating on Saturday morning between allowing a Caesarean on Sunday or Monday.
“I have told her she doesn’t have 24 hours,” he said. “I cannot be sure of the foetal wellbeing in 24 hours.”
Asked by Eileen Barrington SC, for the hospital, about the risks to the mother from a Caesarean section, Dr Birmingham said that in Ireland in 2013, the procedure was “almost risk-free”. At issue, said Ms Barrington, was how to balance the mother’s right to refuse treatment with the right to life of the unborn.
She argued that in view of the “exceptional circumstances” of the case, it would not be a disproportionate response for the court to grant an order overriding A’s right to refuse treatment.
The court also heard that the woman was disputing the estimated date of delivery. She insisted that her due date was March 18th, whereas medical staff said she was 13 days overdue and that there was a possibility she was further along than they estimated.
Shortly before Mr Justice Hedigan was due to give his ruling, the court was told that the woman had agreed to undergo an emergency section. Preparations for the operation had begun, Ms Barrington said, and the hospital was no longer seeking a court order.