Denise Higgins, Partner in our Family team, recently represented the mother of five children, all of whom were subject to care proceedings. However the main issue centered around medical issues pertaining only to one child Z. The children were made subject to proceedings following concerns raised by the Health Trust that the parents may be fabricating or inducing illness in Z and that they were placing him at risk of significant harm by refusing to submit him to hospital as an inpatient for a further period of intensive naso-gastric and oral feeding regime. Z being a child with accepted complex medical needs who had been treated at a number of different hospitals under the care of their respective complex needs multi disciplinary paediatric teams.
Denise represented the mother from the inception of the proceedings which involved getting to grips with highly complex medical information and liaison with experienced counsel which led onto the instruction of leading counsel given the complexity of the case and the very unusual health condition of the child.
The Health Trust sought to be joined as a party to the proceedings which they subsequently were and drove the application for Z to be placed into hospital under their recommended feeding regime which the parents agreed with. Throughout this period the child’s health was overseen by the Hospital Trust, what emerged was that upon through examination and an expert overview of the child’s medical records that there was no evidence in the case that the parents were falsifying symptoms albeit it some limited evidence of slight over reporting and non compliance.
The child subsequently returned home and normal family life resumed the child quickly gained weight which was one of the principle concerns and started to go back to school. A better working relationship between the parents and the Hospital trust was established as a result.
The Local Authority also revisited the need for ongoing public law proceedings, the social worker working collaboratively with the parents recommended that the proceedings be withdrawn and that in fact the threshold was never in fact met.
It is important to note that the parents were at times overwhelmed by the complex medical information presented to them and that there were clear professional/medical disagreements between the parents and the Trust and they should have been dealt with in a clear consistent manner. In this case there was no invoking of the necessary protocol which is to be adopted in all such cases by the hospital and it should have been in this case, it may have prevented the family from going through the process of feeling that they were at fault for their sons’ continuing complex medical condition.
This case involved the careful consideration of highly complex and unusual medical information and the instruction of an expert renowned for dealing with the particular health condition that this child suffered from.
For further details on the case please click here.