Monday, December 2, 2013

An Orwellian future arrives in Caesarean section

In April if this year, MSNBC talked head Melissa Harris-Perry put forth the notion that children do not "belong" to their parents or greater families, that they in fact "belong" to the greater community as a whole. Such a rubric of (faulty) understanding leads to an obvious conclusion:
Shades of Nineteen Eighty-Four, of a society wherein everyone is obliged to serve the state first and foremost. Because look what Ms. Harris-Perry is saying: children don't belong to their parents--thus they are not really a part of a family--but rather belong to the community, apparently at the moment of their birth, if not before. And the "private" idea of children is wrong, they are "public" entities, a "public good" if you will. Communal property managed by the state, that is her definition of children.
At the time, Harris-Perry caught a lot of flak for her remarks, as I noted in the piece linked to above. Of course, her comments were mostly about the issue of education, the arguments over responsibilities for the same. Nonetheless, the existence of this mindset--the idea that children are somehow communal property--extends into other avenues, as well. And Harris-Perry is far from alone in this regard, as recent events across the Atlantic should now make clear. Crystal clear.

In the summer of 2012, a pregnant woman from Italy was in England for a training course. At some point, the lady apparently had a severe panic attack in her hotel room. She, herself, called the police, who arrived at her room, spoke with her and her mother (who was still in Italy, but on the phone), and decided to take her to the hospital for her own safety. Given that she was apparently in distress and very far along in her pregnancy, this was a completely reasonable decision in my opinion. Or so it would seem. I'll let Christopher Booker of the Telegraph explain what happened next (and if you're not already doing so, you probably want to sit down, breathe easy, and try to remain calm):
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.
Remember, this was in the summer of last year. The baby--a girl--is now fifteen months old, has never even been seen by her mother, and is being put up for adoption, by order of the British Court of Protection. Since birth, the child has apparently been under the care of Essex social services, even though there are extended family members available to care for the child, even though the child was born to an Italian citizen. All attempts by the birth mother, her family, and agents of the Italian government to obtain custody of the child have failed. Right now, the child's future will be in England, as a ward of the state, until an adoption is arranged to the benefit of some English family.

While one might argue that this is all some sort of horrible series of mistakes, of unfortunate events as it were, that none of this is evidence of an overriding mindset like the one I noted above (wherein children are the property of the state, as a matter of course), note some realities here: plenty of people are not outraged at all by this course of events. The workers at Essex social services--who presumably care about children--have never suggested mistakes were made, nor has the judge at the Court of Protection. Indeed, others in positions of authority in England are defending all of the actions taken by authorities there:
The Court weighted up the competing rights of the mother and the unborn child and came to its decision that a forced caesarean section was in the best interest of the child. This is unconventional, unprecedented and highly unusual but within the remit of the Court. The mother had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and after five weeks still did not have the capacity to instruct a lawyer. The Court had to make the Order. 
We must not forget that hard decisions need to be made to protect the welfare of the vulnerable. Criticizing the judgment is unwarranted and even dangerous as it may diminish the authority of the Court. If the Court of Protection was inhibited from making hard decisions children’s lives could be put at risk. That is the real story.
Even if we allow that performing major surgery on a patient without the consent of the patient or the patient's immediate family (or even notifying the immediate family) was a necessary action in order to protect an unborn child, how is keeping the child away from its birth mother and extended family consistent with such a goal, how is doing so protecting the "welfare of the vulnerable" in the least?

It is interesting to note that the terminology used here for the mandated operation--a "Caesarean" section--comes directly from Ancient Rome, where the use of such a procedure was a legal requirement for all pregnant women who died prior to or during childbirth. Now--at least in Britain--such a requirement has apparently been extended to include all women, period, provided someone can make the argument that it would be in the best interests of the unborn child to remove it from its mother's womb without the mother's knowledge or permission.

While some here--in the United States--might want to assume an air of moral superiority over our cousins on the other side of the pond, note that in many regions of the U.S., this kind of scenario is unlikely, not because people here would never dream of such a course of action, but because they might just opt for a forced partial-birth abortion, instead. Either way--forced Caesarean or forced abortion--the point is that the British state has apparent absolute control over life and family: it grants the former and establishes the latter, via court order and bureaucratic process. Orwell would indeed be proud of his native land...

From the song Living on a Thin Line by The Kinks, released in 1984 oddly enough:
All the stories have been told
Of kings and days of old,
But there's no England now.
All the wars that were won and lost,
Somehow don't seem to matter very much anymore.
Cheers, all.

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