By Richard Hartley-parkinson
A baby girl has been kept away from her mother for almost five years after she refused to sign a form consenting to a Caesarean section – even though she did not end up needing to have the operation.
The extraordinary case began after staff at a New Jersey hospital claimed that refusal to give permission for the procedure amounted to child abuse.
The agonising decision triggered a protracted legal battle which has led to the mother being separated from her child for five years.
The woman, known only as VM, launched an appeal after authorities took her baby away from her immediately after the birth in 2006 at St Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey.
The first appeal failed but she was given a ray of hope when a higher court ruled in her favour.
The case is now waiting to go back to the lower court which is yet to make a decision.
VM was successful at an appeal hearing that reversed the lower court’s decision saying that the mother was ‘unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child’ and that ‘termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good.’
In its ruling the Superior Court in New Jersey said: ‘JMG cannot be lost in this process. She is “the beating heart at the centre of this controversy” and she is entitled to the benefit of permanency with parents who hopefully will be in a position both physically and mentally to sustain her.
‘Unfortunately that decision cannot yet be made. In the interim, she has been the beneficiary of a loving foster home but at the same time, she has a sustained relationship with loving parents.
‘Termination (of parental rights) is among the most extraordinary remedies that can be exercised by a court. We must insist that the remedy be reserved for those instances where the state meets the extraordinary burden imposed by the law.
‘That burden has not been met here.’
According to the original appeal hearing, when VM went into labour medical professionals at the hospital said she ‘demonstrated combative and erratic behaviour including a refusal to consent to a Caesarean section.
‘Despite the medical opinion that the foetus demonstrated signs of distress and that the procedure was necessary to avoid imminent danger to the foetus, the child was born by vaginal delivery without incident.’