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Dublin: 10°C Tuesday 30 November 2021

HSE applies to be allowed induce labour of pregnant woman with mental age of eight years

The High Court heard that those caring for the woman, aged in her 20s, are unsure as to how well she understands what is happening to her.

shutterstock_541072711 Source: Shutterstock/Valeria Aksakova

THE HSE HAS asked the High Court for orders allowing a hospital induce the birth of a child whose mother has the mental age of less than eight years of age over concerns for the infant’s health.

Doctors treating the woman, who is in the ninth and final month of her pregnancy, say it is in the best interests of both the child and the mother that birth is induced.

Due to concerns over the mother’s capacity to comprehend or consent to medical procedures that may be required to be carried out the HSE made an application to Justice Isobel Kennedy at a vacation sitting of the High Court today.

It applied for various orders allowing medical practitioners at the hospital carry out various procedures, including delivering the infant by caesarean section.

Neither the expectant mother, nor the hospital where she is being treated, can be identified for legal reasons.

David Leahy BL for the HSE told the High Court the expectant mother, who is being cared for by her parents, is aged in her 20s but has a mental age of between six and seven and a half years.

Counsel said the woman wants to have the child and she eventually hopes to be able to care for the infant.

Counsel said scans had detected a problem with the child being underweight a few weeks ago.

Medical evidence

The situation was constantly being monitored and the medical evidence was such that the child should be delivered over the next 24 to 48 hours, counsel said.

The woman has always displayed an eagerness to please those treating her.

Counsel said that during her pregnancy everything about the process of giving birth had been explained to her in terms she can understand.

However given the recent health concerns for the infant, the hospital where she is expected to give birth says there is uncertainty as to whether she fully comprehends what her medical team is proposing to do in respect of inducing birth, counsel added.

Given her impaired intellectual function, counsel said the HSE had decided to come to court and seek orders allowing it to carry out the proposed treatment.

Justice Kennedy granted the HSE permission to serve short notice on the woman of its intention to seek orders allowing doctors to carry out what they believe could be life-saving procedures.

The judge also granted the HSE interim orders allowing medical practitioners treating the woman to take certain steps, including performing a caesarean section, that may be required should the woman go into “spontaneous labour” before the court has dealt with the application.

The application was made on an ex-parte basis, where only one side was present in court.

The judge also made an order appointing a solicitor with experience in the areas of mental health and capacity as the woman’s guardian ad litem.

Noting the “extreme urgency”of the situation the judge made the matter returnable to tomorrow’s sitting of the High Court.

The HSE application will then come before the President of the High Court Justice Peter Kelly.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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