Social services in the county of Essex reportedly obtained permission from a High Court to forcibly remove an unborn child from its mother’s womb by caesarean section. The Court Order was granted on the basis the woman had suffered a mental breakdown.
The Sunday Telegraph reported the story, citing the woman’s lawyers, who is now fighting for custody of her child. The woman, who is reportedly an Italian national, was in the UK on a business trip last year when she suffered a panic attack. She called the police who subsequently took her to a psychiatric facility where she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Members of her family said the panic attack was caused by her failure to take medication for bipolar disorder, which she had been diagnosed with in Italy.
The legal documents handed to the Sunday Telegraph indicate that after 5 weeks in the ward, the woman was sedated and subjected to a caesarean section procedure to remove the unborn child from her womb. The Essex social services had received an order from a High Court giving them the go ahead to carry out the operation on the grounds that the woman was not mentally fit.
“I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job,” Brendan Fleming, the woman’s British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph.
The woman’s lawyers say that she was never informed of the procedure.
The aggrieved returned to the UK in February of this year to claim custody of her child at a Crown Court. Her lawyers said that although the judge formed a favorable opinion of her, he ruled that the child should be put up for adoption because there was a danger that she could regress.
Following the ruling the case has snowballed and is now at the center of an international dispute. The woman has also filed a case with a High Court in Rome asking why an Italian citizen had been subjected to UK care proceedings. Her lawyers are currently trying to discern why no next of kin in Italy were informed when she was sectioned.
“If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there,” wrote Christopher Booker in his column in The Sunday Telegraph.
Lawyers also voiced some concern that the child was put up for adoption when there had been an offer from a family friend in the US to take care of her.
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