Essex Forced Caesarean: Italian Mother’s Case ‘A Big Problem That’s Been Swept Under the Carpet’

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By Hannah Osborne | December 2, 2013 9:56 PM EST

MP John Hemming condemned forced caesarean (Reuters)

The case of the Italian mother who had her baby forcibly removed from her womb and placed into care is not a one off case, an MP has said.

John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley, said there are many cases where courts separate mothers from their children then deport them, but people turn a blind eye to them because the reality is so horrific.

The unnamed Italian woman had been in the UK on a two-week Ryanair training course in Stansted when she suffered from an anxiety attack inked to her bipolar disorder and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

While in hospital, Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the women allowing them to forcibly sedate her and perform a caesarean section.

Essex County Council then took the baby girl, who is now 15 months old, into care and plans to put her up for adoption.

After the caesarean, the woman was sent back to Italy. She returned to the UK in February to get her daughter back, but was told by Chelmsford Crown Court that she could not be returned to her in case she suffered from another relapse.

Essex County Council said it could not comment on on-going cases. A spokeswoman told IBTimes UK it would be issuing a statement but this had not yet been received.

Hemming told the Daily Telegraph that there should be greater openness in family court proceedings, as cases like this are common.

"It's a very big problem that has been swept under the carpet. Partly because it is so awful, people want to turn a blind eye to it. In essence families count for nothing in the modern family court.

"The 'best interests of the child' are 'paramount' which means that what the social workers say goes. If a social worker does not say what the management want then the social worker can be fired as had happened. There is no independence in the system and family ties carry no substantial weight.

"The Italian case is one about which more will be heard."

He referred to a case where a woman's child, who was born in Sweden, was taken into care in the UK after she was involved in an incident at Heathrow Airport. The child lived with a foster care until an appeal court ruled that British authorities had no jurisdiction over the child.

Hemming said cases of mothers being separated from their children are increasing (Reuters)

Hemming also noted Education Secretary Michael Gove's drive to increase the number of adoptions in the UK was influencing cases such as these.

"The problem's been going on for a long time but it's become an increasing problem because of some of the changes brought in by the current government."

Also commenting on the case, chief executive of mental health charity Mind Paul Farmer said: "Many people will be surprised to learn that someone could have their rights taken away in this distressing manner. While this is an extreme and unusual set of circumstances, mental health legislation is incredibly powerful. Every day it can mean people lose their liberty and their basic right to make decisions for themselves. It should always be used with care and people must be treated with dignity and respect at all times.

"We know that over half of people living with a severe and enduring mental health problem have at least one child under the age of 18. They may face added pressures, particularly if they need to spend time in hospital, but it is perfectly possible to be a kind and loving parent while managing a mental health problem.

"Parents with a mental health problem can sometimes worry about struggling more than other parents and not being able to give their children the care they need. They may also be concerned about the stigma that they and their family might endure. It's important that this story doesn't stop parents seeking the help and support they need."

Lawyers for the Italian mother have asked why her family were not consulted before the caesarean and why social services kept the child, despite a family member offering to care for the baby - where possible, a child must be adopted by members of the family, but social services said the woman's stepsister did not have a "blood tie".

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, condemned the case: "At first blush this is dystopian science-fiction unworthy of a democracy like ours. Forced surgery and separation of mother and infant is the stuff of nightmares that those responsible will struggle to defend in courts of law and decency."

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