The Ultimate “Child Protection” — State Forcibly Sedates Mom, Performs Cesarean, Takes Baby

Readers — This story from The Telegraph makes Kafka look like Louisa May Alcott. I don’t share it as a tale of, “Look what’s happening all the time!” because, thank God, it is unique. What it does illustrate is what happens when the government is allowed to make parenting decisions. Drastic ones. Always, of course, “for the sake of the child.”- L.

‘Operate on this mother so that we can take her baby’

A mother was given a caesarean section while unconscious – then social services put her baby into care

by Christopher Booker

Last summer a pregnant Italian mother flew to England for a two-week Ryanair training course at Stansted. Staying at an airport hotel, she had something of a panic attack when she couldn’t find the passports for her two daughters, who were with her mother back in Italy. She called the police, who arrived at her room when she was on the phone to her mother. The police asked to speak to the grandmother, who explained that her daughter was probably over-excited because she suffered from a “bipolar” condition and hadn’t been taking her medication to calm her down.

The police told the mother that they were taking her to hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK”. On arrival, she was startled to see that it was a psychiatric hospital, and said she wanted to go back to her hotel. She was restrained by orderlies, sectioned under the Mental Health Act and told that she must stay in the hospital.

By now Essex social services were involved, and five weeks later she was told she could not have breakfast that day. When no explanation was forthcoming, she volubly protested. She was strapped down and forcibly sedated, and when she woke up hours later, found she was in a different hospital and that her baby had been removed by caesarean section while she was unconscious and taken into care by social workers. She was not allowed to see her baby daughter, and later learnt that a High Court judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, had given the social workers permission to arrange for the child to be delivered. In October, at a hearing before another judge, she was represented by lawyers assigned to her by the local authority and told she would be escorted back to Italy without her baby.

…Read the rest here.

You'd scream, too, if you'd been taken from your mom and given to strangers without her consent -- or even knowledge!

You’d scream, too, if you’d been taken from your mom and given to strangers without her consent — or even knowledge!

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53 Responses to The Ultimate “Child Protection” — State Forcibly Sedates Mom, Performs Cesarean, Takes Baby

  1. Nicole December 1, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    And I’m sure she only went off her medication (lithium, presumably) to prevent harm to the fetus. What a mess. At the very least the child should be transferred to Italian social services.

  2. QuicoT December 1, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    What I note is that successive judges have had a look at this and made a determination, while the article tells us pretty much nothing about mom’s behaviour off her meds. I’m guessing it was pretty extreme.

    I’d like a proper investigative journalist to tell me this story, not a guy with anti-social-services advocacy forefront on his mind.

  3. Powers December 1, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Yeah, there has /got/ to be more to this story that isn’t reported in this article.

  4. Donna December 1, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    It seems like she was in a manic phase of bi-polar disorder which can be dangerous to herself and the fetus and can’t fully be treated medically quickly or without risk to the baby. Not a reason to force a c-section unless the baby’s health was at risk in utero, but possibly a reason to commit her to a hospital. We don’t have a great description of her behavior at the time of commitment or in the hospital and never will since that would be covered under privacy laws and cannot be printed publicly. Since I have trouble getting completely batshit crazy clients committed against their will, I guess that the behavior she exhibited was probably pretty bad.

    My question would be whether she has a history of compliance with her medication or a history of non-compliance. That is really unclear in the article (which indicates to me that she is not usually complaint with her meds since the article was definitely slanted in her favor and this would be a very important detail to include if positive and to leave out if negative). While it is true that many bipolar women do choose to go off meds during pregnancy, the article kinda made it sound like she really only is on meds now to get her child back and not that she immediately went back to her normal routine as soon as the child was born.

    In my experience of handling CPS cases involving parents with mental illness in the US, if it is believed to be just a temporary issue – mom is usually compliant with meds but went off them for some reason – reunification of parent and child once mom is stabilized is the norm. But if mom has a history of refusing to take meds or of cycling on and off them, termination of parental rights and adoption is often sought.

  5. Nicole December 1, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    There always is more to the story, however the refusal of UK to either 1.) transfer care to a family member (step sister) or 2.) transfer care to Italian social services isn’t excusable and possibly violates international law.

  6. Mike in Virginia December 1, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    If CPS were truly interested in what is best for the child, then they would understand that a natural birth, followed-up immediately by establishing a maternal bond and proper nursing relationship (if the mother is willing to breast feed) should be the first priority. If that is not possible, due to extreme circumstances (which may very well have been in effect here, we don’t know), then taking alternative measures may be in order.

    We don’t know all of the facts in this story, and it may very well be that mother and child will be reunited. The real problem, in my mind, is that, at least in this country (the US), this is standard operating procedure for women who are incarcerated. There was a story recently about a woman, I believe in Tennessee, who was jailed for embezzlement for 6 months and had this happen to here two weeks before she was due for release. I would definitely say that is NOT what is best for the child.

  7. Donna December 1, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Nicole – The person they were trying to give the child to is a complete non-relative of the child. It is essentially no different than a family friend. While CPS will consider placement with step-parents and other non-blood relatives that have been an integral part of the child’s life to that point, it is not required to do so nor will it consider some unknown (to the child) family friend a better adoption than a regular adoption.

    Has there even been a request by the Italian government to return the child to Italy CPS? Do we even know the child’s citizenship? This child was born in the UK to an Italian mother and the UK took custody at birth via court order. Is this child a British citizen? Italian citizen? Both? Stateless? Italian CPS may not even want the child.

  8. Natalie December 1, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Here is a link to another article. Sounds very bizarre. Why would anyone call for help when THIS is how they are treated? Unbelievable.

  9. J.T. Wenting December 1, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    This is sadly not an isolated case (though an extreme example for sure).
    Quite a few pregnant women flee the UK every year (often to Ireland) to prevent their children being taken from them upon birth by “social services” who’ve determined they’re “likely to be abusive parents”.

  10. maggie December 1, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Regardless of her mental state, they had no right to drug her and operate on her.

    They also took away the father’s rights.

    Utterly sickening.

  11. Andy December 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    I vaguely remember some previous scandals over overly active UK CPS. They have a lot of power while (especially foreign) parents very little of it. UK system tend to assume that parents are guilty of abuse.

  12. Andy December 1, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    @Donna From the article: “The High Court in Rome expressed outrage at what had been done to an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. But the judge there concluded that, since she had not protested at the time, she had accepted that the British courts had jurisdiction – even though she had not known what was to be done to her, was deemed to have no “capacity” to instruct lawyers because she had been sectioned, and had only been represented by solicitors assigned to her by the local authority.”

    In addition, “American husband – from whom she is amicably separated, and who is the father of her eldest daughter – asked that the baby be sent to Los Angeles to live with his sister […] British law is clear that wherever possible children should be adopted by members of their wider family. But in March, Essex social services ruled that this was unacceptable because, even though she was the aunt of the baby’s stepsister, the American woman had no “blood” tie to the baby. “

  13. Nicole December 1, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Even without a blood relation, if the woman the mother has chosen (who is part of her family) can pass a home study, she should be given preference.

    And, again, Italy has stood up for this woman, which suggests there is evidence the UK overstepped, as they likely know the full story. The UK tends to have a lot of these cases, from friends of mine I know it the UK. Their CPS structure is where ours was maybe twenty years ago- our current structure assumes it’s in the best interest of the child to be reunited UNLESS there is evidence to the contrary. The UK structure assumes placement is in the best interest of the child.

  14. Ken Hagler December 1, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Doesn’t this constitute an act of war by the UK against Italy? Just imagine what would happen if an American woman visiting, say Iran, were to be imprisoned without a trial for weeks and cut open so her baby could be stolen from her…

  15. MHC December 1, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    This Dr Mengele story is an outrage right out of the Nazi death camps.

  16. Papilio December 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    It sounds like the script of a Hollywood thriller!
    Or an Onion story…

    Can this seriously be legal??!
    I know the nationality of the child matters and it is not encouraging that the child was actually born abroad, but it sounds like something the Hague Convention should act against. Somehow.
    I don’t understand why they didn’t bring her back to Italy and avoid this whole scam.

  17. Papilio December 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    @MHC: As far as I know
    a) she wasn’t carrying a twin,
    b) she wasn’t a dwarf,
    c) both of them are still alive

  18. SKL December 1, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Whoa. Somebody needs a ass whoopin.

  19. JJ December 1, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    This is indeed a shocking story but it’s a little off topic for the FRK site, no?

  20. Donna December 1, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    Andy – I read the article. I have no idea why you are quoting those parts of the article at me. I read them. They don’t answer any of the questions that I have about this case.

    I know that the MOTHER is an Italian citizen. That doesn’t answer the citizenship of the CHILD. Nor does it address whether Italy has asked for the return of the child and is willing to take custody. In fact, it indicates the opposite. That despite being outraged, the courts don’t even think it has any claim to the child any more. Which further negates Nicole’s insistence that international law is being broken by failing to return the child to Italy.

    And I know that the husband from whom she is separated and apparently has been for quite awhile since she has now 2 children who are not his asked to send the child to America with his sister. As I said, this person is not family to this child. CPS doesn’t have to agree to send the child to live with a friend of the family. Further, the husband, who is not the father of the child, doesn’t have a dog in this fight and his wishes are about as relevant as mine. The article said nothing about the MOTHER wanting the child to live in America. She appears to want the child to live with her in Italy.

  21. Nicole December 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Donna, I said it POSSIBLY violate international law. It may not. I am guessing it probably does, but pretending I’m somehow insisting it is ridiculous.

    The child is an Italian citizen as the mother is an Italian citizen, Jus Sanguinis.

  22. Donna December 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Nicole – First, the article says that the mother’s HUSBAND asked to send the child to America. He is not the father of the child. I don’t know that the MOTHER has asked to send the child to America. She appears to want the child in Italy with her.

    Second, people who have had their children taken from their custody don’t actually get to determine who adopts the child. They may get some input into temporary guardianship, but ultimately, for the child to be placed up for adoption, any rights that the parents have in the making decisions for the child must first be severed. Saying that the government can sever parental rights but still must follow the wants of the parents whose rights are being severed makes no sense whatsoever.

    You also can’t assume that because there was a court hearing in Italy that Italy is fully informed. We don’t know that any representative from the UK appeared at that hearing and, even if one did, confidential medical information may not have been viewed at all since it seems that jurisdiction was all that was decided. International law is extremely complicated and not something to just roll of the cuff and make judgments based on an article giving a small number of the facts.

  23. Nicole December 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    Seriously Donna, the words “suggesting”, “maybe”, “possibly” do not suggest an assumption. They suggest uncertainty. It feels like you’re looking for an argument, honestly.

  24. Donna December 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    Nicole – The child MAY be an Italian citizen. The child is certainly eligible to be an Italian citizen should the mother ever regain custody, but the mother has to file paperwork to make that official (just like you do in the US if you have a child born outside the US). I don’t know if the mother can do that since she currently doesn’t have custody of the child or the legal right to do anything on behalf of the child.

    And none of that speaks to whether the child is also a British citizen. Normally it would not be just by being born in the UK, but the British government seized the child at birth so I don’t know if that has any effect.

    Again, international law is extremely complex and this case is a total cluster. I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but treating the situation as if any of are in the know is ridiculous.

  25. Donna December 1, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Nicole – I’m not sure where you are suggesting any uncertainty whatsoever.

    You said “I’m sure she only went off her medication (lithium, presumably) to prevent harm to the fetus” and I pointed out that we don’t know that. You said that the child “should be transferred to Italian social services.” I said is that we don’t know if that is possible or even wanted by Italian social services. You said that the mother wanted the child to go to America and I pointed out that it was her estranged husband, who is not the father, who expressed that desire not her to our knowledge (although she may have as well but it was not said in the articles). You said that “Italy likely knew the full story.” I said that it may not have known the full story as the UK position may not have been presented.

    Personally, I hate it when Lenore posts these types of stories. We never have all the facts and there are many facts that can make this perfectly reasonable that will never be available to reporters.

  26. S December 1, 2013 at 4:01 pm #


  27. Nicole December 1, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    By that logic at least half of newborns born abroad are stateless. They aren’t. They almost always receive citizenship in their home country via the principle of jus sanguinis. The papers are a formality.

    “By now a new twist had entered the story. Supported by the mother, her American husband – from whom she is amicably separated, and who is the father of her eldest daughter – asked that the baby be sent to Los Angeles to live with his sister, herself a very capable mother, described by her US lawyer as “a rock”.” <— From the article, the mother supported custody going to the step aunt.

    And yes, before becoming involved in an international custody dispute, I think the Italian officials likely did their homework. It's possible they didn't, and I have no way of knowing, but I'd imagine it's likely.

  28. Andrew December 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    We don’t know the full story, but if this bipolar woman must have her child taken away because she could “fail to maintain her medication” surely the same remorseless logic could be applied to any other bipolar parent, or indeed any parent with mental health issues.

    Of course, the state does not make mistakes.

  29. Asya December 1, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Albeit I am not bipolar, I cannot imagine being held prisoner in a psychiatric hospital while heavily pregnant, unable to eat the nutritious foods I would like, being sedated, being denied a natural birth, denied bonding with my baby, denied the chance to properly nourish my baby, and having a foreign country’s social services decide to give my precious child to a foreign couple, in a foreign land, speaking a foreign language, raised in a foreign culture. TERRIFYING!

    So this woman’s crime was a “mental breakdown?” I have one of those every month! Why, why oh why does anyone call any “authorities” upon themselves?

    Personally, I LIKE when Lenore posts these! They may be sensational but that is great– Sensational stories generate traffic, which is always good news for FRK.

  30. Chihiro December 1, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    So…parents with mental health trouble shouldn’t be allowed to raise their own children? Ignoring the fact that this woman’s human rights were violated when they performed this sort of operation on her without her consent, they cite the reason for adopting the baby out to be the possibility of the mom going off her meds at some point in the future. So…what? It seems like half the world has to pop a pill or two in the morning, should they all have their children taken away just ‘in case’ they ever go off their meds?

  31. baby-paramedic December 2, 2013 at 4:09 am #

    No blood?
    My sister who is “no blood” to me is just as much my sister as my “blooded” one. And I am closer to my “no blood” and “half blood” brothers than I am my “full blood” one.
    Cannot STAND people saying step-siblings don’t count.

  32. J.T. Wenting December 2, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    “I vaguely remember some previous scandals over overly active UK CPS. They have a lot of power while (especially foreign) parents very little of it. UK system tend to assume that parents are guilty of abuse.”

    Links from the Telegraph article lead to several more recent cases, where children were abducted by CPS from other countries and put in foster care because their UK mother would “probably make a bad mother because she had in the past been in a relation with an abusive man” (so if you ever filed complaints about being abused as a woman, you are not to be trusted raising children at any time in the future, even if it’s with another man).

    And CPS continues to do that despite having been told by the UK’s highest court that the practice is illegal.

  33. Crystal December 2, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    She could be the worst mother in the world — another Diane Downs in the making — and yet it would still be better for the baby to be born naturally than to be forcibly C-sectioned. Way to take a page directly out of China’s playbook, England.

  34. Warren December 2, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Regardless of the mother’s behaviour, performing a C section, an operation without consent, or knowledge is assault. Pure and simple.

  35. lollipoplover December 2, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    This is scary and reminds me of the forced sterilizations and eugenics used on mentally ill and “feeble minded” women in the Carolinas (and other Southern states) that only stopped in 1963. I ran across this because even mild petit epilepsy(which one of my kids had) was grounds for sterilization. How crazy that a government can take away someone’s reproductive rights against their wishes, but our own government did it to many women not too long ago.

    I wish mental disorders were treated with the same respect as physical disorders. This poor mother was treated like a prisoner of war for something she has no control over. If this were someone in a wheelchair, there would be pickets outside the pysch hospital.

  36. Andrew December 2, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Having heard a little more about this case, it seems that the woman was thought to be in very poor mental health (not just frazzled, but incapable of looking after herself) so she was “sectioned”; that is, detained against her will, in accordance with the Mental Health Act.

    Quite why she was then detained for five weeks is not clear, but as she had lost the capacity to make decisions about her own health, the English court has the job of deciding on what medical treatment is most appropriate. Apparently the caesarean was ordered by a high court judge. Again, it is not clear why.

    Immediately after the birth, over a year ago, the child was taken into the care of the local authority. It seems somewhat bizarre that her child has not been returned to her after she responded to treatment. She is looking after two other children in Italy!

    The family courts in the UK are subject to quite far-reaching prohibitions on disclosure of information, so the full story may never come out, but here is another report:

  37. QuicoT December 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    One thing is clear: there is a bigtime diplomatic brouhaha brewing over this case. It’s in all the papers in two major european countries…

  38. Shawn December 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    Being operated on without your knowledge or concent? I’m pretty sure that’s completely illegal anywhere in the civilized world. Even though the decision came from a judge. That’s just crazy. I can see the day when each of us goes into the dentist, doctors, emergency room, etc… and come out with an implant chip in our heads. Never knowing it was put there.

  39. Maggie in VA December 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Wow, I’m pretty sure this could not happen in the U.S., and I am very glad for that. However, this gives a stark glimpse of where the fetal endangerment laws that have been enacted in some states could take us.

  40. Ali December 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Ah c’mon, did April Fool’s Day arrive early this year?

  41. Arianne December 2, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    This is an article I read years ago (2004 or 5) while pregnant with my first. It was very memorable, to say the least:

    Yes, very rare, but not unheard of at all. The story of the Nigerian woman in Chicago in the article above makes me just heartsick. It does sound like something out of the Twilight Zone, but it is indeed a very real, important ethical issue in maternal care.

  42. Claudia December 2, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    My feeling is that there’s a lot of missing information here. The journalist who wrote this has long been on something of a campaign to discredit social services when it comes to removing children. I can say that here in the UK social workers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Obviously, something incredibly upsetting has happened, but it’s not a decision that would have been taken lightly or is a normal day to day sort of action or ever likely to be. If the court around this is secret, it is not necessarily sinister; just to keep the facts around the people involved private unless those involved wish to reveal them.

    I agree with others that the aftermath seems worrying, but again, we don’t know the full story.

  43. parallel December 2, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    I have difficulty imagining what could be missing from the story that would justify forcibly sedating a woman without even informing her of what was being done, performing invasive surgery, and removing her child from her womb. The ‘full story” doesn’t really matter to me in this case. There’s nothing to me that could possibly make this anything but a gross and terrifying invasion of this woman’s rights.

  44. J.T. Wenting December 3, 2013 at 2:22 am #

    “So…parents with mental health trouble shouldn’t be allowed to raise their own children?”

    worse. People who ever had contact with people with possible mental health problems should not be allowed to raise their own children.
    And that means everyone. All children should be raised and trained by the State from birth.

  45. Kay December 3, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    Honestly, this story depresses the heck out of me. It’s so unfathomable and leaves me shaking.

    It seems this Christopher Booker is being somewhat looked upon as if he has an agenda against UK social workers and courts. But maybe he is really trying to bring this hideous problem to light, not unlike our Lenore does with the slowly eroding freedoms of our children and our parenting choices.

    More links referred to by J.T. Wenting:

    You know their CPS and the courts must be that bad if people have to flee the country because there is no reasoning with these people.

  46. Onlooker December 3, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    I hate this kind of sensationalist nonsense. Try checking the facts.

  47. pentamom December 3, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    The Buzzfeed article doesn’t dispense with all of the problems by a long stretch. It gives no medical rationale for the Caesarean, for one thing. I’m not yet ready to accept that it was not a violation of her rights if no one even bothers to indicate that there was a medical indication for an emergency caesarean, and that after five weeks of treatment, she was evaluated for competency to consent and failed the evaluation.

    The most it establishes is that there were a few details gotten wrong that make it a degree less egregiously bad, not that it wasn’t a bad situation all around, with the British government having too much power to dispose of a foreign child without the direct consent of that child’s natural native government. If it could not be established that the mother or a close relative was not a suitable parent, she should have been returned to the legal custody of the Italian government.

  48. Andrew December 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    The Buzzfeed article does provide a link to the legal judgment on the adoption in February 2013 – – which makes it clear that the woman had been very ill while in Italy (hospitalised there several times, twice detained involuntarily) and the Italian authorities had intervened to restrict her contact to her two older children.

    Just to be clear, the “government” was not involved at all. It was a combination of the doctors dealing with the mother’s mental and physical health applying to the court for permission to undertake the caesarean because the mother did not have capacity to consent for herself (although we don’t appear to know why the the caesarean was thought necessary – the court can only order it if it is in the monther’s best interests; until the child is born, its interests should not be taken into account), and then the social workers at the part of the local authority concerned with the care of the child after its birth applying to the court to find first a temporary and then second a permanent resolution for the care of the child.

    A very hard case.

    I also recommend this commentary by a family law barrister –

  49. notbubba December 4, 2013 at 12:47 am #

    Our sons and daughters are cash cows for the government. Nothing quite wakes a person up like having your breastfeeding two year old kidnapped by DFCS. There often times is no reasonable cause to steal babies other that the money they bring into the County government. It really is just that simple much of the time. Georgia is fast becoming a very dangerous place to which to visit a hospital with your sons/daughters.

    Here is a recent story:

    Most of the docs:

    The latest doc to attorney Deal:

  50. Tsu Dho Nimh December 6, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    “A mother was given a caesarean section while unconscious” … you know, anaesthesia does that.

    “we don’t appear to know why the the caesarean was thought necessary – the court can only order it if it is in the monther’s best interests”

    There are many reasons why it would be in the mother’s best interests: placentia previa, eclampsia, or signs of an impending uterine rupture from a previous c-section.

  51. Paula December 11, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    From the country that allowed a sterile bitch to steal and mentally abuse little Veronica Rose from her father this is a bit rich

  52. Andrew December 12, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Just to note, the judgment of Mr Justice Mostyn in the Court of Protection, on the application for the caesarean, was published a few days ago –

    As the law requires, the interests of the unborn child are irrelevant: the decision to order the medical procedure was made in the best interests of the woman.

    “4. The problem here is that as the mother has had two children by caesarean section before … There is a significant risk of a ruptured womb, perhaps as much as 1%, were she to have a natural vaginal delivery. So the medical evidence from the obstetrician is clear that it is in her best interests that she should have the procedure in the way I described, which is by a planned or elective caesarean tomorrow.”

    I wonder if the estimated level of risk – 1% chance of a ruptured womb if she has a natural vaginal delivery – is accurate. And, if so, is that such a significant level of risk as to justify medical intervention? What are the risks associated with the alternative of a total anaesthetic and caesarean delivery? (My wife, incidentally, had an elective caesarean for her first pregnancy (twins) and an entirely unproblematic natural delivery the second time around, although with lots of careful monitoring.)