A really ugly legal battle is about to get underway in the UK, where an Italian national who came to Britain last July on a work-related trip had her infant forcibly removed by caesarean section after social services determined she suffered a mental breakdown and didn't have the capacity to care for the child.
The whole saga — which began back in 2012 — is laid out in a vivid Sunday Telegraph column, detailing the Italian woman's descent into a strange legal labyrinth in a foreign country. Last summer, social services in Essex obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child (now 15 months old) taken out of her womb. According to the Telegraph's Colin Freeman, the council said at the time that it was acting in the child's best interests — the woman, who apparently had a preexisting bipolar condition, had suffered a mental breakdown during her two-week work trip in the UK.
The woman's daughter is still in the care of social services, though the woman claims she's made a full recovery. What began as an example of the power British social services can wield in an extreme situation has quickly turned into an international issue, with lawyers for the woman describing her forced C-section as "unprecedented."
From the report:
They [the woman's lawyers] claim that even if the council had been acting in the woman's best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.
Brendan Fleming, the woman's British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph: "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.
"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 woman, who has not been named for legal reasons, came to Britain last July to attend a training course with an airline at Essex's Stansted Airport. She then suffered a panic attack, whereupon she called police, who became concerned for her well-being and took her to a hospital that she soon realized was a psychiatric facility (the woman's family believes that her panic attack was caused by her failure to take medication for her bipolar condition). The woman has told her lawyers that when she expressed a desire to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sanctioned under the Mental Health Act.
Essex social services obtained the High Court order in August for the woman's birth to "to be enforced by way of caesarean section." During the intervening five weeks between when she was placed in the psychiatric and when she was forcibly sedated prior to the C-section, the woman claims she was kept oblivious about the legal proceedings surrounding her pregnancy.
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