Italian woman forced to have C-section

(Photo: Roli Seeger)

A pregnant Italian national who came to the UK last year reportedly had her baby removed without consent by Caesarean section.

The procedure was carried out under a High Court order obtained by Essex County Council against the woman - who cannot be named for legal reasons - because she had suffered from a mental breakdown caused by failure to take medication for an existing case of bipolar disorder, The Telegraph reports.

She was held under the mental health act, kept in hospital for five weeks against her will before being sedated and forced to undergo the C-section.

She also claims that she was kept uninformed about all proceedings until after the event. The Essex authorities justified their actions by stating that they were acting in the woman's best interests when they took the baby, now 15-months-old, into the care of social services.

The case is developing into an international legal battle, with Brenden Flemming, the chief lawyer in the woman's case quoted as saying: "I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job … I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented."

Essex County Council is being criticised for failing to consult the woman's family and Italian social services.

Mr Flemming said: "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."

The case has also come before a judge in the Italian High Court in Rome. There, it has been questioned why British social care proceedings were applied to the child of an Italian citizen "habitually resident" in Italy. The judge however accepted that British courts had jurisdiction over the woman, who was deemed to have had no "capacity" to instruct lawyers at the time.

John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, will be raising this case in Parliament later this week.

"I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people's rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme," he said, according to The Telegraph.

"It involves the Court of Protection authorising a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed. I worry about the way these decisions about a person's mental capacity are being taken without any apparent concern as to the effect on the individual being affected."

In February of 2013 the mother returned to the UK and attempted to regain custody of her child, having made a complete recovery after her initial panic attack and mental breakdown. The judge presiding over the case agreed that the woman who stood before him was in better mental condition than during the initial stages of the case. However, he was unwilling to return the baby to her out of fear that she would relapse and be unable to care for the child properly.

An Essex county council spokesman has said the local authority refuses to comment on ongoing cases that involve children or other vulnerable individuals.

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