An article published on The Independent website yesterday told of an emotive case that has this week been heard in the Court of Protection.
The 37 year old woman, known as ‘SB’, is said to be suffering from severe mental health problems including bipolar and paranoid delusions. These problems had previously been controlled by medication, and SB and her husband had happily planned the pregnancy and were both excited about the birth of their child.
However, SB stopped taking her medication to prevent any harm to the baby, which has resulted in a worsening of her mental health conditions and a drastic change of heart about the pregnancy. She is said to be paranoid that she is being persecuted by her family and social services, and is currently residing in a secure mental health facility.
A consultant psychiatrist said that it is “100% clear” that she does not possess the capacity to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy herself.
SB was prevented from attending the first hearing, but did submit a video plea to the Judge, in which she is reported to say:
"If you force me to have this baby and lock me up I will try to kill myself."
Following this, the Judge allowed her to attend the subsequent hearing. This was surprising as patients do not normally get the chance to speak on their own behalf in the Court of Protection.
As the woman is 23 weeks pregnant and wishes to have a medical abortion as opposed to surgery, a decision had to be made as a matter of urgency.
The Court had the extremely difficult task of deciding what would be in SB’s best interests. The Court had to have regard to SB’s intention when she did possess the requisite capacity to decide whether to continue with the pregnancy, as the change of heart was obviously due to her disengagement from her medication in order to protect the baby.
Despite this, the Court has ruled that SB is capable of making the decision to terminate the pregnancy and it is reported that:
“Justice Holman disagreed with the assessment of her doctors, mother and husband that SB was not capable of deciding and said it would be "a total affront" to her autonomy to say she could not.”
"The patient perfectly understands what's involved in a termination... she perfectly understands the finality of the event".
The case is evidence of the sensitive and controversial nature of Court of Protection cases, and the difficult task that the Court is faced with in making a ‘best interests’ decision.
By Sophie Maloney
The Court of Protection is a specialist Court safeguarding the rights of those who lack mental capacity or are vulnerable in making decisions. If you require advice in respect of any issues which may require the Court of Protection to intervene, then our team is able to provide specialist legal advice, representation and guidance through this process.