An involuntary C-section in Britain, performed on a 35-year-old Italian woman, has sparked ethical debates about the role of mental illness in pregnancy and adoption decisions.
In August 2012, the woman, who had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was staying at a hotel in England when she had a panic attack, precipitated by misplacing the passports for her other two daughters, who were with her mother back in Italy.
The police took the woman to a hospital, where she had difficulties interacting with the staff. Service workers in Essex Social Services proceeded to obtain a court order. She was sedated and underwent an emergency C-section.
She has still never seen her daughter.
The Essex County Council, which continues to hold the daughter, wants to put her up for adoption, citing “risks to the health and mother,” according to the Guardian.
The High Court of Rome has expressed outrage at the case, calling for the reunification of the daughter and mother. Human rights activists have condemned Essex Social Services for its actions.
“Please God there’s more to this, but at first blush this is dystopian science-fiction unworthy of a democracy like ours,” said Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organization Liberty, told the Guardian. “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.”
Though the case has been ongoing for 15 months, it did not attract widespread attention until it was detailed in a Nov. 30 column that ran in the Sunday Telegraph.