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in brief: woman forcibly sedated and given caesarean

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In what is becoming an international legal row, it has become apparent that an Italian woman visiting Britain was forcibly sedated and given an caesarean section after experiencing a mental breakdown.

Last year, while visiting the UK on a two-week business trip, a pregnant Italian woman with a preexisting bipolar disorder experienced panic attacks, and was taken by police to a psychiatric unit. Although the woman expressed a desire to return to her hotel, she was sedated, restrained and sanctioned under the Mental Health Act.

Meanwhile, Essex social services obtained a High Court order for the woman’s birth ‘to be enforced by way of caesarean section,’ whereupon the newborn was taken from the woman’s womb into the care of the state.

Although it appears that social services failed to contact the woman’s family or next of kin in Italy, or at least liaise with an Italian social services unit, the council claimed that it was acting in the child’s ‘best interests.’

Having recovered, after being escorted back to Italy without her baby, the woman has now embarked on a legal battle to regain custody of her child. According to her lawyer, Brendan Fleming, this incident is ‘unprecedented.’

This story raises numerous social and ethical questions around the nature of consent and mental illness, the extent to which the state can and should intervene in such matters and the ways in which these debates intersect with gendered notions of who is “fit” to be a mother.

One thought on “in brief: woman forcibly sedated and given caesarean

  1. As a worker with mental health service users and with close personal connections with to the mental health system i find this case to be appalling in its circumstances and implications for service users,mothers ,future children,indeed the whole of humanity,This was a pre-emptive ,targeted strike against a not merely vulnerable but defenseless individual institutionally instigated and judicially sanctioned.I do not think the term “crime against humanity” to be inappropriate here nor is it to talk of policies redolent of nazi germany.If this outcry were made against jewish peoples condemnation would be widespread, loud and clear.This case should not be allowed to disappear from public view and neither should the impetus to accountability be allowed to diminish.The lack of noise that seems to be generated by this issue,the reaction to this wholly unjustifiable action is of great concern and an indictment of the current climate of fear and ignorance surrounding mental health.How many more “stealth” actions will be carried out or already have against the mental health community which in truth means ALL OF US.

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