Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

The forced Caesarean case proves that light must be shone on social services and the courts

It’s no joke, having a Caesarean, and I’ve had two. So the news that Essex County Council social services obliged a pregnant, mentally ill Italian woman to have her baby in this fashion – normally, you talk the thing over with a consultant – was perhaps the scariest element of the case when I first read about it. I mean, unless there was a medical emergency, that would count as assault by most people’s reckoning. But after reading more it’s hard to know which bit of the story to be most outraged about: the forcible removal of a child from the woman whose bipolar disorder is now, apparently, under control and who desperately wants to keep her daughter, or the assumption by Essex social services that they cannot hand the baby over to the care of her father (the woman’s ex-husband) and grandparents who are, right now, looking after her two siblings. Or indeed, the very fact of taking a child away from a foreign national in the first place and putting it up for adoption to a British couple.

Essex social services department say that they had ‘exhausted all other options’ before taking this course, including liaising with the child’s extended family in Italy. Really? One of the umpteen things about this case I don’t believe is that they did any such thing. How’s their Italian, for one thing? Did they bring in the Italian ambassador to provide assistance in this case, and possibly language skills? Did anyone actually go to Italy to talk in person to the family? We don’t know, of course, but we should. As for the council’s contention that it had told Italian courts about the case – for the woman had always intended to return to Italy, so it’s a moot point why Italian courts aren’t deciding the matter – I’d rather like to know about that contact in full.

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