The Delhi High Court Monday reserved the order on a plea moved by a 33-week pregnant woman seeking termination of pregnancy on account of the foetus having “cerebral abnormalities”.
A single judge bench of Justice Prathiba Singh had directed the medical board of the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital to medically examine the woman on Friday and submit a report by Sunday. However, on Monday morning, the HC was informed that the woman was not examined the entire weekend. The HC directed the hospital to examine her and submit the report by 1 pm.
When the matter was called at 2.30 pm, the HC was informed that the examination was conducted but the report was being prepared. The matter was finally heard after 4 pm wherein the HC perused the report and spoke to the neurosurgeon and senior specialist (gynaecology) through video conferencing. Justice Singh asked the neurosurgeon, “In your report, you have written about the condition of the child is compatible with life… What do you mean that the child will have a normal life? What are the chances of the child being medically handicapped?”
The doctor responded that he cannot comment on if the child will be handicapped and the degree of it. He submitted that all other reports were normal except that the child had a “dilation of the left lateral ventricle” but the brain is normal. He also said that an operation can be carried out on the brain after delivery, stating that the surgery was very common and is usually carried out 10 weeks after the child is born.
Justice Singh interacted with the senior specialist (gynaecology) and asked about her opinion after going through the ultrasound and the MRI of the foetus’ brain. She submitted that her opinion is based on findings of the neurosurgery department. On being asked how the termination of pregnancy takes place, she said that they will induce the termination by giving medicines to the woman; if that is not successful then they will proceed with a C-section. She informed the court that risk of anaesthesia in a C-section will remain.
During the arguments, Justice Singh observed that the report was quite sketchy. “There have been much more detailed reports. Problem is that every day means a lot here. The detail as to the surgery and the abnormality had not come in the report,” the court observed.
Appearing for the woman, advocate Anwesh Madhukar submitted, “For a doctor, it may be a regular surgery but that can’t take away the gravity of the consequences. Anguish is that it is their first child. God forbid if the child is mentally handicapped they will have to bear the consequences forever. Even for the child, the right to life is the right to live with dignity, not as a vegetable.”
The HC remarked, “We have one ethical concern. Technological advancements will take place. The level of testing will also become advanced. Are we then looking at a society which will only have perfect children? If it is a question of means, does it mean that if means are provided should parents have a choice not to have such children?”
The HC interacted with the 26-year-old woman and her husband on video conferencing and asked her whether she is clear about terminating her pregnancy. The woman said that she was informed by doctors that in any case, her child will survive; that she will be given medicines to induce labour, and if that does not happen then she will undergo a C-section. Noting that the woman will have to be explained the procedure of termination, in case it is allowed by the court, the HC reserved the orders to be pronounced on December 6.