Intended for healthcare professionals


Abortion: Two trusts are criticised for inadequate assessment of woman’s capacity to decide

BMJ 2022; 376 doi: (Published 15 March 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;376:o687
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. The BMJ

A judge has criticised two NHS trusts for flawed assessments concluding that a pregnant woman detained under the Mental Health Act lacked the capacity to decide whether to have an abortion and for their failure to take the issue to court.

The case reached the Court of Protection on the day before the time limit for a lawful termination expired, but only because the woman, referred to as S, found solicitors who secured an urgent court hearing. Judge Carolyn Hilder ruled that S was able to take the decision for herself, contrary to the assessments carried out by two consultants, an obstetrician, and a psychiatrist.

Hilder said that the case should have been brought to court much more promptly and by one or both of the trusts, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Trust and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust. Their failure to issue proceedings meant that the court was required …

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