It is not only in fictional dramas that judges are called upon to make emergency life or death decisions in the middle of the night. Exactly that happened when a highly vulnerable mother refused to be admitted to hospital after a life-threatening crisis developed in her home delivery.
Due to a traumatic event in her past, the woman was stricken by depression, anxiety and acute agoraphobia. As a result, she was largely confined to her home and its environs. Against medical advice, she opted for a home delivery. Midwives attending her birth reported that her labour was obstructed. She refused to be taken to hospital, despite warnings that, without inpatient obstetric care, she and her baby would be at risk of serious injury or even death.
The NHS trust that bore responsibility for her care contacted a family judge by telephone at 10pm. Following a hearing that lasted almost until midnight, the judge found that the woman lacked the mental capacity required to make important decisions for herself. He ordered that she be taken to hospital by ambulance and authorised the trust to provide her with appropriate treatment including, if necessary, an emergency caesarean section.
After delivering his ruling, the judge was informed that, in the event, the mother’s labour had rapidly progressed to a happy outcome. She gave birth to a healthy boy at home without the need for her to be admitted to hospital.