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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Mental health wider concept, all such illnesses not diagnosable: Bombay HC

A division bench of Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice Madhav Jamdar was on October 6 hearing a plea filed by the teenager seeking medical termination of pregnancy on the ground that continuing with it would adversely affect her mental health.

By: Express News Service Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: October 9, 2021 7:17:51 am
Mental health, Bombay HC, Teen Pregnancy, Mumbai, Mumbai news, Indian express, Indian express news, Mumbai latest newThe bench permitted the petitioner to undergo medical termination of pregnancy at J J Hospital expeditiously and sought a report on the outcome of the procedure by October 14. (File)

THE BOMBAY High Court, while observing that mental health is a “wider concept”, recently overruled the recommendation of an expert panel of the J J Hospital in Mumbai and allowed an unmarried teenager to medically terminate her 26-week pregnancy.

The HC passed the order despite the panel’s conclusion that the case did not warrant medical termination of pregnancy, as there was little risk that having the child would cause “grave mental injury” to the teen, who is barely 18 years old.

A division bench of Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice Madhav Jamdar was on October 6 hearing a plea filed by the teenager seeking medical termination of pregnancy on the ground that continuing with it would adversely affect her mental health.

On September 29, the HC had referred the case to a medical board constituted by the dean of the state-run J J hospital to examine the teen and assess her mental health due to her pregnancy. The panel submitted its report on October 4.

After examining the ultrasonography and psychiatric evaluation reports, the panel observed, “At present, no abnormality is detected in the foetus and the mother also does not have any medical or pregnancy related disease. The mother has moderate depressive episodes and with treatment, further continuation of pregnancy is unlikely to adversely affect her mental health.”

Advocate Shiram Kulkarni, appearing for the petitioner, said that the panel ignored the teenager’s psychological condition, including her suicidal tendencies. He added that while her father is autorickshaw driver and her mother sells vegetables, she has three siblings. She has also completed higher secondary education last year.

Maintaining that she has just completed 18 years of age and her entire life lies ahead of her, Kulkarni said that compelling her to have an unwanted child would gravely violate her Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The HC observed that the expression “mental health” is a wider concept, encompassing “mental illness” too. “Many individuals with poor mental health may not be formally diagnosed with any mental illness. Mental state of a person is a continuum with good mental health at one end and diagnosable mental illness at the opposite spectrum,” it said.

The court added: “The socio-economic condition/status of the petitioner is clearly discernible. Compelling the petitioner, a girl of tender age, to have an unwanted child may lead to disastrous consequences for the rest of her life, not only for the petitioner but for the entire family. Unfortunately, the above factors were not taken into consideration by the medical board while submitting its report.”

The bench permitted the petitioner to undergo medical termination of pregnancy at J J Hospital expeditiously and sought a report on the outcome of the procedure by October 14.

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