Monday, May 14, 2007

HSE To Probe Handling Of Miss D Case

Dearbhail McDonald Irish Independent Friday May 9th 2007.

AN inquiry has been launched by the HSE into its handling of the Miss D abortion case.
But the agency has refused to disclose whether it is paying for the termination despite concerns by the girl's mother that the family are unable to fund it.

The internal review follows criticism of the HSE by a High Court judge who ruled that Miss D, whose baby has a fatal brain condition, can travel to the UK for an abortion.
Sources close to the HSE say the agency is reeling from the severity of the remarks by Judge Liam McKechnie.

The internal review is likely to focus on:
* The HSE's protocols for dealing with such cases and information relayed between key staff, such as social workers and senior managers
* Any legal advice received prior to court proceedings taken by Miss D and whether the HSE was advised to communicate with gardai and the Passport Office in a bid to stop her travelling
* Why the HSE did not seek directions from the District Court immediately when notified of Miss D's intention to travel
* Why a guardian was not appointed to represent her legal interests.

During the 10-day legal saga, the court heard that the girl was told by the HSE that she could not travel to the UK for an abortion and could be restrained, by force if necessary, if she tried.
This claim was not pursued during the €1m action, but Judge McKechnie said the board had no right to restrict her travel and was critical of the manner in which it dealt with the crisis.

In particular, the judge criticised the actions of a HSE social worker who wrote to gardai instructing them that Miss D must be prevented from travelling.

The gardai said they could not and would not do this.
The judge also criticised the "unacceptable failure" to disclose until later in the court hearing that the HSE had contacted the Passport Office after Miss D told her social worker she intended applying for a passport.

The HSE was also criticised for trying to "shoehorn" Miss D into an X Case-type situation although it had no evidence she was suicidal.

Last night the HSE suggested the legal system was to blame. It said it was at all times anxious to act in Miss D‘s best interests and said the lack of legal clarity regarding travel forced it to seek legal advice.

"This advice considered that an Order of the District Court was necessary," said a HSE spokesperson.

"The HSE acted in accordance in what they believed to be the correct course of action in terms of the constraints imposed on us.

"We will be examining the legal implications in terms of the HSE's duties and responsibilities under childcare legislation and will continue to offer Miss D care and emotional support which it is in a position to make available."

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