fbpx

Family Judge Intervenes to Protect Unborn Child of HIV-Positive Mother

17th April 2023 By

In rare and exceptional cases, family courts have to intervene to protect the welfare of children even before they are brought into the world. A judge did just that in the case of a baby boy who was at high risk of being born HIV positive.

The boy’s mother, who was 37 weeks pregnant with him, was infected with the virus during her childhood. She declined anti-retroviral treatment during her pregnancy in the firm belief that he would escape infection and that such treatment would not be good for him. She said that she had lived a normal life without treatment and had controlled her condition by adopting a good diet and taking vitamins.

However, doctors in charge of her case took the view that her baby was very likely to be born with HIV. The day before she was due to undergo a planned caesarean delivery, the NHS trust responsible for her care sought a judicial declaration that it would be lawful to give her baby anti-retroviral drugs immediately after his birth. The prospects of such treatment succeeding critically depended on it being commenced within four hours of his delivery.

Ruling on the matter, the judge noted that the mother was one of a cohort of children infected with the virus overseas during a programme of routine childhood vaccination that must have involved infected needles. In those circumstances, it was not difficult to see why she might have a pervasive distrust of medical advice. Her anxieties concerning treatment were deep-rooted and pervasive.

On the sole occasion when she underwent anti-retroviral treatment herself, she felt very unwell, enduring vomiting and dizziness. There was no doubt that she wanted the best for her baby and the Family Court emphasised that her objection to medication should not be construed otherwise. During her pregnancy, she had prevaricated as to whether to accept treatment. She had repeatedly attended hospital, apparently prepared to comply with medication, before changing her mind.

Granting the declaration sought, the Court noted that it was certainly not possible to be confident that she would cooperate with her baby’s proposed treatment following his birth. It was beyond argument that such treatment offered him the best hope of avoiding infection. Although HIV is happily not the death sentence it once was, the fact that the boy might be able to live with HIV did not mean that he should. Treating doctors viewed his treatment in the immediate post-natal period as imperative and the Court had no doubt that it would be in his best interests.

The case had a happy ending in that, following his ruling, the judge was informed that the boy’s birth went well and that his mother had complied with anti-retroviral medication prior to the caesarean. She and the boy’s father had expressed clear consent to his proposed treatment. The judge congratulated the couple on the birth of their son.

Source: Concious

Latest News

Award That Requires Borrowing Made Into Court Order

17th May, 2024 By

Disagreements between separating couples all too often result in litigation that substantially reduces the assets available to them, as was illustrated by a case that recently reached the High Court. At issue was whether awards made by arbitrators in financial remedy proceedings can be made into court orders even if that would require one of the parties to borrow money. The couple had previously had a relationship lasting a few years before resuming their relationship in 2015. They had two children before separating again in 2019. Following their separation, the...

Inheritance Disputes – Costs Risks Can Be Reduced

15th May, 2024 By

Arguments about what someone promised before their death can lead to significant legal costs. However, if faced with a claim against the estate, there may be steps the beneficiaries or executors can take to reduce the risks, as a recent High Court case illustrated. A man had left a farmhouse and agricultural land in Cornwall to his wife, with whom he had also jointly owned a neighbouring area of land. After his death, one of the couple's daughters and her husband claimed that he had told them he wanted them...

Share Rounding Error Does Not Prevent CGT Relief

13th May, 2024 By

There are often very specific rules that must be complied with in order to claim tax reliefs, but if a small mistake arises, the courts may be able to provide assistance. In a recent case, the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) found that an investor was entitled to Entrepreneurs' Relief on the disposal of his shares in a company, despite owning one share fewer than he needed to qualify for it. The investor had agreed to purchase 5 per cent of the shares in the company for £500,000. He wished to own...

Wife Entitled to Maintenance Until Sale of Family Home

10th May, 2024 By

When divorcing couples disagree on how assets should be divided, the courts will seek to arrive at a fair outcome for both parties. In deciding how the proceeds of sale of a former couple's home should be apportioned, the Family Court agreed with the wife that she should receive maintenance payments until the sale took place. The couple had married in 2006. Following a brief separation, they had reconciled for two years before finally separating in 2022. The husband and wife both contended that they should be entitled to about...