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Beyond Abortion

 Inquiry into doctor's killing of newborn baby 34 years ago

Police are investigating a hospital doctor who admitted suffocating a severely disabled newborn baby 34 years ago.

In a magazine article written in 1988, the unnamed doctor said he placed a pillow over the baby girl until she stopped breathing.

The then senior house officer in paediatrics claimed he killed the baby at a north London hospital in the summer of 1972 to spare her parents further suffering.

They had been led to believe that their child, who was born without her brain, would be born dead.

Writing under the pseudonym of Ivy Walker, he said in New Society magazine that he was racked with guilt and regretted his actions.

He wrote: "One Sunday lunchtime, not long after I had started the job, I was called to the labour ward to an anencephalic [brainless] child. I asked why I was needed, because these children are usually stillborn, and was told: 'To deal with the baby.'

"As soon as the cord was cut, the baby and I were ushered out. There was great haste about this as the parents had been assured that the baby would be born dead and that they should put it out of their minds immediately. But the baby, a girl, was not dead. Apart from the entire absence of a brain, she was perfect in every other way.

"The obstetric staff were adamant that the baby must not live, even for a few hours, as that would mean the parents would have to be told she was alive.

"They would then have the distressing experience of having to register the birth and then the death of their child. It was thought by everyone, including me, that this would be too much for them. They had been told the baby was dead and dead she must be.

"It was made clear that I was the paediatrician and the baby was my problem. So I turned the baby on her face, put a pillow over her head and held it there until she stopped breathing.

"It took 20 minutes for her to die. They were the longest minutes of my life."

The doctor told the magazine that he became "increasingly distressed" and when the girl died "I fled the maternity unit in tears".

The guilt and sorrow he felt at the time were still with him. "I can still see her face, blotching and purple from asphyxia."

Deeply regretting his actions, he said it was wrong of the medical staff "to deny those parents the opportunity to grieve".

He wrote: "Hardest to live with is the knowledge that I caused another human being more distress in death than she would have had dying naturally. This baby would have died within a few hours. Why, why did I have to interfere?"

He added: "It seems incredible how little I and the rest of the profession knew then about the emotional side of pregnancy, birth and the need to mourn one's dead baby. In the light of 16 years' experience, I would handle the situation very differently now."

Scotland Yard confirmed it was investigating the case. A spokesman said: "We are in the early stages of an investigation into the circumstances of a historic incident as accounted in the New Society magazine article that was published in 1988."

Source Telegraph.co.uk