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Thursday 19 January 2017

Doctor accused of killing disabled daughter 'broke all of the rules', court told

Bernadette Scully
Bernadette Scully

The trial of a doctor charged with manslaughter has heard how she "broke all the rules" when she gave too much sedative to her severely disabled daughter.

Bernadette Scully, of Emvale, Bachelor's Walk, Tullamore, Co Offaly, denies the manslaughter of 11-year-old Emily Barut by an act of gross negligence on September 15, 2012, involving the administration of a toxic level of the sedative chloral hydrate.

Closing statements for both sides were heard in the trial at the Central Criminal Court yesterday.

Tara Burns, prosecuting, told jurors they were not being asked to determine if Dr Scully was a good mother and said no one was questioning her love and care for her child over the years.

However, she claimed that, as a mother and a GP, the accused had a duty of care and would have known the safe level of chloral hydrate.

Emily had microcephaly, severe epilepsy and could not speak or move, and had been in pain for the last eight days of her life after the tube in her stomach, through which she received fluids and medication, was replaced.

Dr Scully said she administered chloral hydrate when Emily became upset at 2am and again at 6am. She said she had a massive fit after 11am and she administered more.

Ms Burns said that, by her own admission, Dr Scully had an "absolute rule" never to administer more than 20ml of chloral hydrate within a 24-hour period, which was in line with what experts said.

Conduct

However, on the date of Emily's death, "Ms Scully broke all those rules", administering 34ml by 11am. She said the prosecution did not have to prove the level of chloral hydrate was the only cause of death, but a substantial cause.

Ms Burns claimed Dr Scully's conduct after her daughter's death - two attempts to take her own life, failing to tell her partner that Emily was "dead in the bedroom" and the note she wrote - constituted evidence that she acc- epted she was responsible for Emily's death.

Ken Fogarty, defending, said it was "an eye-opener" that society could heap such responsibility on the shoulders of one woman and "when it goes wrong, turn around and say, 'You killed her'".

He said his client had looked after the child on her own while working as a GP with little support.

"In the human condition, people do make mistakes," he added.

He questioned why nobody had asked whether Emily had suffered a fatal seizure that day.

Mr Fogarty pointed out that the state pathologist said Emily could have died of a terminal seizure at any time.

"I believe in the coverage this case has got, that maybe there'll be a debate, depending on your decision," he concluded.

The jury is expected to begin its deliberations later today.

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