Home Blog

Court rules mentally ill woman can’t get abortion

The Court of Appeal has blocked a mentally ill woman’s abortion after the Catholic church warned it would infringe her human rights.

Three senior judges overturned a ruling made on Friday that the woman, who is in her 20s and 22 weeks pregnant, should have a termination against her wishes because it was in her best interests.

The woman’s mother, who is Catholic and a midwife, brought the challenge after arguing that she would look after the baby.

John Sherrington, a bishop in the Catholic diocese of Westminster, had branded the original ruling, made by the Court of Protection, “sad and distressing”.  

Following the decision, doctors told the woman she would go to sleep and when she woke up the “baby would no longer be in her tummy but she would get a new doll.”

But the woman, who has a mental age of between six and nine, will now be allowed to continue with the pregnancy.

The appeal judges said they would provide their reasons for overturning the ruling at a later date.

The NHS Trust responsible for the woman’s care had asked for the court’s permission to terminate the pregnancy.

Three specialists, an obstetrician and two psychiatrists argued there was a risk to the woman’s psychiatric health if the pregnancy continued and said her behaviour could pose a risk to a baby.

They also said taking a baby from her would cause greater psychiatric harm than terminating the pregnancy.

But both the woman’s mother and her social worker were against a termination.

Lawyers representing the woman, who has a “moderately severe” learning disability and mood disorder, also said she should be allowed to give birth.

Justice Nathalie Lieven, sitting in the Court of Protection, said on Friday: “I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the state to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion.”

But she added that she had to act in the woman’s “best interests, not on society’s views of termination”.

Bishop Sherrington said: “Forcing a woman to have an abortion against her will, and that of her close family, infringes her human rights, not to mention the right of her unborn child to life in a family that has committed to caring for this child. In a free society like ours there is a delicate balance between the rights of the individual and the powers of the state.”

He added: “This case, for which all the information is not available, raises serious questions about the meaning of ‘best interests’ when a patient lacks mental capacity and is subject to the court’s decision against her will.”

The Court of Appeal heard that Mrs Justice Lieven’s analysis of what was in the woman’s best interests was flawed.

John McKendrick QC, representing the woman’s mother, said the judge had speculated about what would happen if the pregnancy continued.

“There is a clear overall view of a young woman who wishes to have a baby,” he said.

Katie Gollop QC, representing the woman, who is from the London area but cannot be identified, said the evidence showed that she was “highly adaptable” and “flexible”.

The court heard that the “circumstances of the conception” were “unclear” and that a police investigation was ongoing.


Boris Johnson’s ex-boss says, Johnson I know isn’t fit for PM, just another Trump


Six years ago, the Cambridge historian Christopher Clark published a study of the outbreak of the first world war, titled The Sleepwalkers. Though Clark is a fine scholar, I was unconvinced by his title, which suggested that the great powers stumbled mindlessly to disaster. On the contrary, the maddest aspect of 1914 was that each belligerent government convinced itself that it was acting rationally.

It would be fanciful to liken the ascent of Boris Johnson to the outbreak of global war, but similar forces are in play. There is room for debate about whether he is a scoundrel or mere rogue, but not much about his moral bankruptcy, rooted in a contempt for truth. Nonetheless, even before the Conservative national membership cheers him in as our prime minister – denied the option of Nigel Farage, whom some polls suggest they would prefer – Tory MPs have thronged to do just that.

I have known Johnson since the 1980s, when I edited the Daily Telegraph and he was our flamboyant Brussels correspondent. I have argued for a decade that, while he is a brilliant entertainer who made a popular maître d’ for London as its mayor, he is unfit for national office, because it seems he cares for no interest save his own fame and gratification.

Read more: Tory leadership debate cancelled after Johnson refuses to take part (The Independent)

Tory MPs have launched this country upon an experiment in celebrity government, matching that taking place in Ukraine and the US, and it is unlikely to be derailed by the latest headlines. The Washington columnist George Will observes that Donald Trump does what his political base wants “by breaking all the china”. We can’t predict what a Johnson government will do, because its prospective leader has not got around to thinking about this. But his premiership will almost certainly reveal a contempt for rules, precedent, order and stability.

A few admirers assert that, in office, Johnson will reveal an accession of wisdom and responsibility that have hitherto eluded him, not least as foreign secretary. This seems unlikely, as the weekend’s stories emphasised. Dignity still matters in public office, and Johnson will never have it. Yet his graver vice is cowardice, reflected in a willingness to tell any audience, whatever he thinks most likely to please, heedless of the inevitability of its contradiction an hour later.

Like many showy personalities, he is of weak character. I recently suggested to a radio audience that he supposes himself to be Winston Churchill, while in reality being closer to Alan Partridge. Churchill, for all his wit, was a profoundly serious human being. Far from perceiving anything glorious about standing alone in 1940, he knew that all difficult issues must be addressed with allies and partners.

Churchill’s self-obsession was tempered by a huge compassion for humanity, or at least white humanity, which Johnson confines to himself. He has long been considered a bully, prone to making cheap threats. My old friend Christopher Bland, when chairman of the BBC, once described to me how he received an angry phone call from Johnson, denouncing the corporation’s “gross intrusion upon my personal life” for its coverage of one of his love affairs.

“We know plenty about your personal life that you would not like to read in the Spectator,” the then editor of the magazine told the BBC’s chairman, while demanding he order the broadcaster to lay off his own dalliances.

Bland told me he replied: “Boris, think about what you have just said. There is a word for it, and it is not a pretty one.”

He said Johnson blustered into retreat, but in my own files I have handwritten notes from our possible next prime minister, threatening dire consequences in print if I continued to criticise him.

Johnson would not recognise truth, whether about his private or political life, if confronted by it in an identity parade. In a commonplace book the other day, I came across an observation made in 1750 by a contemporary savant, Bishop Berkeley: “It is impossible that a man who is false to his friends and neighbours should be true to the public.” Almost the only people who think Johnson a nice guy are those who do not know him.

There is, of course, a symmetry between himself and Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn is far more honest, but harbours his own extravagant delusions. He may yet prove to be the only possible Labour leader whom Johnson can defeat in a general election. If the opposition was led by anybody else, the Tories would be deservedly doomed, because we would all vote for it. As it is, the Johnson premiership could survive for three or four years, shambling from one embarrassment and debacle to another, of which Brexit may prove the least.

For many of us, his elevation will signal Britain’s abandonment of any claim to be a serious country. It can be claimed that few people realised what a poor prime minister Theresa May would prove until they saw her in Downing Street. With Boris, however, what you see now is almost assuredly what we shall get from him as ruler of Britain.

We can scarcely strip the emperor’s clothes from a man who has built a career, or at least a lurid love life, out of strutting without them. The weekend stories of his domestic affairs are only an aperitif for his future as Britain’s leader. I have a hunch that Johnson will come to regret securing the prize for which he has struggled so long, because the experience of the premiership will lay bare his absolute unfitness for it.

If the Johnson family had stuck to showbusiness like the Osmonds, Marx Brothers or von Trapp family, the world would be a better place. Yet the Tories, in their terror, have elevated a cavorting charlatan to the steps of Downing Street, and they should expect to pay a full forfeit when voters get the message. If the price of Johnson proves to be Corbyn, blame will rest with the Conservative party, which is about to foist a tasteless joke upon the British people – who will not find it funny for long.

• Max Hastings is a former editor of the Daily Telegraph and the London Evening Standard


Obasanjo says AfCFTA vital for Africa, countries in business with Africa


Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo says he would advise his home country to sign the African Free Trade Agreement before heading the African Union Niamey Meetings. He discussed the significance of the treaty among other things with CNBC Africa’s Christy Cole on the side-lines of the Afreximbank 2019 Annual Meetings in Moscow.


Huawei unveils new smartphone chip


Huawei on Friday unveiled a new smartphone chip, despite the challenges the company faces with US government restrictions.

The move comes as Huawei announced that its smartphone shipments exceeded 100 million units by May 30 this year, about one month faster than the time it achieved the same figure in 2018.

The new chip is designed with seven nanometer standards and is intended for high-end smartphones, said He Gang, president of Huawei’s consumer business group, at a launch event in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province.

Huawei is facing a crackdown from the US government, which accuses the company of posing risks to its national security.

Huawei, the world’s largest telecom equipment manufacturer, has repeatedly denied the accusations and said these claims are not supported by factual evidence.


Data shows US suicide rate since 2017 highest after WWII

U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he hosts a Greek Independence Day celebration at the East room of the White House in Washington, U.S. March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX32LJ2

So many statistics say that life in the U.S. is getting better. Unemployment is at the lowest level since 1969. Violent crime has fallen sharply since the 1990s—cities such as New York are safer than they’ve ever been. And Americans lived nine years longer, on average, in 2017 than they did in 1960. It would make sense that the psychic well-being of the nation would improve along with measures like that.

Yet something isn’t right. In 2017, 47,000 people died by suicide, and there were 1.4 million suicide attempts. U.S. suicide rates are at the highest level since World War II, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on June 20, when it released a study on the problem. And it’s getting worse: The U.S. suicide rate increased on average by about 1% a year from 2000 through 2006 and by 2% a year from 2006 through 2016.

Although suicide is the starkest indicator of mental distress, others abound. Drug overdoses claimed 70,000 lives in 2017, and 17.3 million, or 7%, of U.S. adults reported suffering at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Life expectancy, perhaps the broadest measure of a nation’s health, has fallen for three straight years, in part because of the rise in drug overdoses and suicides. That’s the first three-year drop since 1915 to 1918.

The problems may have different and varied causes, but what they add up to is a national mental health epidemic. The damage is on the scale of the global financial crisis, yet we lack the institutions, policies, and determination to address it. The government’s response has been inadequate, says Paul Gionfriddo, president of Mental Health America, an advocacy group. “The dollars have gone more to deep-end services in jails and prisons. It’s a really bad idea to put the money into jails because the people don’t belong there.”

“I’d like to say things have improved a lot, but they haven’t”

Mental health problems manifest in a number of ways and encapsulate a wide range of conditions, including substance abuse disorders, crippling anxiety, schizophrenia, and suicidality. A person’s susceptibility depends on genetic, social, and environmental factors. These contributors are believed to be intertwined; psychological stressors can activate a genetic predisposition, so life circumstances matter a lot. And the U.S. is home to some particularly challenging ones: stagnant wages; rising health-care costs; the proliferation of highly addictive opioids after a marketing push from major drug companies; the disappearance of well-paid blue-collar jobs and the emergence of the gig economy; the lack or limited availability of treatment and services. The destructive powers of technology, be it in the form of social isolation or cyberbullying, have been cited in the rising number of teens killing themselves. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for 10- to 34-year-olds. Then there’s the prevalence of guns, which are used in half of all suicides.

Whatever the causes, mental illness and substance abuse are social and economic catastrophes. They cost U.S. businesses $80 billion to $100 billion annually, according to a literature review put out by the Center for Workplace Mental Health, which also showed that some two-thirds of people suffering from either mental health or substance abuse disorders don’t receive any treatment for their conditions. Unchecked mental health conditions can result in violence. In America, workplace shootings have become almost routine. The latest: On the afternoon of May 31, 2019, a disgruntled city employee killed 12 people at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Va.

Some federal actions have contributed to the crisis. Out of concern that patients were trapped in mental hospitals without a path out, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Actin 1963 to provide funding for new services in the community. The law “drastically altered the delivery of mental health services and inspired a new era of optimism in mental health care,” according to the National Council for Behavioral Health. It also came at a time when new psychiatric drugs were emerging, supporting the hope that the future was going to be brighter for people in need of care.

Almost 60 years later, it’s clear things haven’t worked out that way. “People with severe mental illness can still be found in deplorable environments, medications have not successfully improved function in all patients even when they improve symptoms, and the institutional closings have deluged underfunded community services with new populations they were ill-equipped to handle,” Daniel Yohanna wrote in “Deinstitutionalization of People with Mental Illness: Causes and Consequences” in the AMA Journal of Ethics in 2013. That’s left people without the comprehensive care they would need to recover from drug addiction or suicidal thinking. Yohanna cites a poll of experts who say that 50 beds per 100,000 would meet Americans’ acute and long-term care needs. In some states the number is as low as 5 per 100,000. “I’d like to say things have improved a lot, but they haven’t,” he says today.