A HIGH court judge authorised doctors to secretly drug a pregnant woman, then force her to have a caesarean section against her wishes.
Mr Justice Williams ruled the 25-year-old, whose identity cannot be disclosed, could be tricked into going to hospital under the pretence of a normal appointment.
When she arrived she was to be given a sleeping drug hidden in a drink before taken to theatre where she would be given general anaesthetic, possibly while she was restrained.
A medic would then be allowed to perform a caesarean on her before she was sent home and the baby taken into care.
The disturbing plan even allowed for the possibility the woman, who has learning difficulties, would not be fooled into going to hospital.
Then medics were approved to be able to go to her home to secretly drug her, or restrain her and inject her with ketamine.
Details of the plot – which was only revealed in court documents this week – sound more like the script of a horror film than life in a developed country.
In the end, the woman actually gave birth naturally after the hearing, meaning the shocking plan was never actioned.
But it raises serious questions over how experts had got the situation so wrong – and were days from putting her through such a harrowing ordeal.
Chief executive of charity Birthrights Amy Gibbs told The Sun she had been shocked by the details of the ruling and plan.
She added: “I have never heard of a case before where there has been this kind of deception.
“From a human rights perspective it is deeply worrying any court would authorise such an order.
“This seems particularly horrific for three reasons.
“A caesarean is something she did not want to happen, the evidence shows she understood some of the choices. She was very clearly expressing she didn’t consent to certain things.
“The second real concern is that the court didn’t hear from the woman, partner or her family. There is a serious question of if enough was done to help the woman understand the question.
“But the real, real worrying fact in this case is the level of deception they approved in this care plan – it really concerns me.
“We can all imagine how distressing and traumatising this would have been for her. The risk seems so high.
“Birthrights are really concerned whether the Court of Protection is representing women’s rights.
“The judge talks about weighing up risks and probabilities but one of the worrying things is how late in the day this is being discussed, he himself asks why it is coming to court so late.
“The level of deception in how to achieve a forced caesarean seems disproportionate, given she then gave birth naturally.
“We believe all women have the right to decide what happens in childbirth. This point is really well established in UK law.”
At the start of the pregnancy she was in a relationship but living at her home with her mum and spending time at her boyfriend’s family home.
By May she had moved out of her mother’s home into a supported living placement.
The fact there were no problems stunned the judge, who admitted later it had “confounded” assessments.
Making the original ruling Mr Justice Williams admitted: “She is likely to experience distress, distrust, anger, frustration at both the deception that may be necessary and the carrying out of a surgical procedure against her will in respect of such a profoundly important matter.
“This is likely to be all the greater because it is proposed that the baby will be removed from her care.
“The evidence demonstrates she lacks capacity to make decisions as to her antenatal care and the delivery of her baby.
“That lack of capacity arises from a learning disability which renders her unable to make a decision because she is unable to understand the information relevant to the decision and to use or weigh that information as part of a process of making a decision.
“The overall balance in the evaluation of her best interests is thus in favour of the proposed treatment plan provided it is supplemented to address the psychological or psychiatric consequences of giving birth in this way.
“I therefore declare that it is in her best interests to undergo a planned caesarean and the proposed transfer and proposed postnatal care plan.”
The papers, which refer to the woman as JP, laid out in full the steps of the proposed treatment by the NHS Trust, whose identity was also hidden.
Experts said it was needed because she has learning difficulties and did not have the mental capacity or ability to make decisions about her delivery or her care.
If necessary she might be physically restrained in order to achieve her transfer to hospital. If necessary a general anaesthetic would be administered at that time in order to effect her transfer. In theatre the Caesarean section would be performed.
She had actually said she did not want a Caesarean and had become agitated during a visit to an antenatal clinic, calling one medic a “b******”.
The woman had said she had wanted to do the birth her way and punched a chair when an anaesthetist came to see her.
Court documents laid out the drugging plan in full: “JP will be asked to attend hospital in order to conduct monitoring in respect of the baby.
“This will be a pretext for the carrying out of a planned caesarean section.
“I JP agrees to travel to hospital for the monitoring on arrival she will be provided with a sedative, oral midazolam, contained covertly in a drink.
“When that takes effect she will be taken to theatre where she will be provided with a gas administered general anaesthetic.
“This might involve some degree of physical restraint. If JP was cooperative a general anaesthetic by IV would be considered.
“If JP was not willing to travel to hospital for monitoring she would be given midazolam covertly in a drink at a residential unit.
“If she was then cooperative she would be transferred to the hospital. If she was not cooperative she would be given an intramuscular injection of ketamine.
“If necessary she might be physically restrained in order to achieve her transfer to hospital. If necessary a general anaesthetic would be administered at that time in order to effect her transfer.
“In theatre the Caesarean section would be performed.”
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But the day after the Court of Protection hearing, when the ruling was made, she went into labour without any of the disturbing actions having to take place.
In fact she had given birth naturally without any issues, according to a postscript to the papers.
Mr Justice Williams admitted: “The capacity for individuals to confound judges’ assessments is a reminder – to me at least – of the gap between probability and actuality.
“I hope JP and the baby are well.”
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