A family doctor acquitted by a jury of unlawfully killing her daughter described the extremely disabled and suffering 11-year-old child as “my little bird with a broken wing.”
Most of Ireland was moved to tears by the details related in court of Dr. Bernadette Scully’s desperate battle to care for years for her daughter Emily who had microcephaly, severe epilepsy and couldn’t speak or move.
The 11-year-old was in severe pain for the last eight days of her life, having had a medical procedure to replace the tube into her stomach through which she received fluids and medication.
Her mother, a general practitioner, administered chloral hydrate on September 15, 2012, when her daughter became upset at 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. at their home in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.
Scully said her daughter then had a massive fit after 11 a.m. and she administered more chloral hydrate. She acknowledged she had given more than double in those nine hours than she had ever previously given in 24 hours. She told Gardai she knew she had given too much.
Emily died and Scully tried to take her own life twice, the second time by overdosing on medication.
The 58-year-old was charged with manslaughter and, at the end of a two-week trial in Dublin was acquitted within four hours by a unanimous verdict of a jury of seven women and five men.
In part of her statement later Scully said, “As I said in my evidence Emily was my little bird with a broken wing whom I loved, cared for and protected.
“Our struggle is mirrored in the lives of so many people in similar situations in Ireland. Like me, very many parents and carers of children who are disabled, struggle on a daily basis to get access to services and support systems which are very often simply not there.”
Her statement added, “I respect the need to investigate Emily’s death but the past four years have been a living hell for me and my family. I have not only lost my beloved Emily but was unable to attend her funeral.
“I haven’t yet had the opportunity to properly grieve for her or celebrate her precious life. These proceedings have left me traumatized and emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted.”
It was alleged in the trial that Scully killed her daughter by an act of gross negligence involving the administration of an excessive quantity of chloral hydrate. State pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy said in the trial that, potentially, the levels of chloral hydrate were fatal.
However, Cassidy said the girl had suffered a seizure six to eight hours before her death and that any of her illnesses could have contributed. She also said that she had been at risk of a potentially fatal seizure at any time.