A doctor charged with the manslaughter of her disabled daughter gave her child "100% plus" care but was finding it difficult to keep going, a leading consultant nurse told her trial today.
Offaly GP Bernadette Scully (aged 58), is charged with unlawfully killing her 11-year-old daughter Emily Barut, who was profoundly disabled, at their home at Emvale, Bachelor’s Walk, Tullamore. It’s alleged that she killed her by an act of gross negligence involving the administration of an excessive quantity of the sedative chloral hydrate on Saturday September 15, 2012.
She has pleaded not guilty and is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.
Noreen Roche, a nurse with 40 years experience who works as a consultant in High Court medical cases, told defence counsel Ken Fogarty SC she was asked to assess the level and cost of ongoing care for Emily in 2009, when the girl was aged eight. The extensive report detailed Emily's day-to-day life including her exercise regime, medication, difficulties with feeding, sleeping and going to the toilet.
She was asked about Chloral hydrate - the sedative Bernadette Scully is accused of giving her daughter an excessive dose of three years later - and Ms. Roche said she had seen it prescribed for seizure control as a last resort.
She said she knew it was one of Emily’s prescribed medications and that she needed it to help her sleep and relax when she would wake up screaming.
She said Bernadette was "devoted" to Emily and provided a high level of care to her in addition to the running of her own GP practice and described Emily’s case as one of the most profound she had ever come across and praised her mother for the quality of care she provided.
She said that she was dependent on her mother for all aspects of her life and was "severely and profoundly disabled". She said the level of care she received was "100% plus" adding: "She was fully cared for in an exemplary manner."
She said the girl's ongoing survival was down to the high level of care provided and added that other children with similar illnesses tended to suffer ongoing chest infections and bouts of pneumonia. These had not been a problem for Emily and she put this down to the daily exercise regime and feeding system implemented by Ms Scully.
In the report she wrote in 2009 she noted that Ms Scully was 51 years old and, besides caring for Emily, was working from 2.30pm to 7.30pm at her doctor's practice. She had no help with administration or paper work. She was suffering from back problems but did not have time to see a physiotherapist, go walking, swimming or do yoga. She added: "She is 51 and finds it difficult to keep going at this pace."
She also noted that due to cutbacks, help from the Center for Independent Living had been withdrawn. Her report stated that her home was not suitable for Emily's needs and a specially designed home would be needed.
The trial has heard that on the night Emily died she suffered a fit that her mother said was not normal for her. Mrs Roche said that she had noted in previous cases with girls suffering from profound disabilities that as they approach puberty their fits become more severe.
She said the unusual fit would tie in with the pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy's note that Emily showed early signs of entering puberty. "It is a big consideration to be taken into account," she said.
The defence has now finished giving evidence and closing statements will begin in front of Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven women and five men on Tuesday.