The GP cleared of killing her profoundly disabled daughter with an overdose of medicine has pleaded for help for other parents who struggle to care for their vulnerable children.
Dr Bernadette Scully walked free from the Central Criminal Court after being found not guilty of the manslaughter of her daughter Emily Barut, 11, who died after being administered large quantities of sedative following a series of unusually severe seizures.
Describing the four years since Emily’s death as “hell”, Dr Scully said she respected the need to investigate what happened to her daughter but hit out at the decision to prosecute her.
“These proceedings have left me traumatised and emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted,” she said in a statement read by her solicitor.
Not only had she lost her “beloved Emily’, she said, but she had been unable to attend her funeral. She said she hadn’t had the opportunity to grieve properly or celebrate Emily’s life, which she described as precious.
Dr Scully also made a plea for greater support for parents like her, faced with caring for severely disabled children. “Emily was my little bird with a broken wing, whom I loved, cared for, and protected,” she said.
“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 very often are simply not there.”
The jury’s unanimous not guilty verdict came after just four hours of deliberations and was welcomed by carers’ advocate Tom Curran, who cared for his partner, the late right-to-die campaigner Marie Fleming, for almost 20 years as she battled multiple sclerosis.
Writing in the Irish Examiner today, in advance of Marie’s third anniversary next week, Mr Curran, who faces a Garda investigation into her death, said the jury’s actions had restored his faith in humanity.
“I feel for the mental trauma that she [Dr Scully], her partner, and her family must have gone through during the investigation and the trial and the shock she must have felt when informed of the decision to charge her.
“But what really needs to be brought into focus is the continual anguish she had been going through in providing care to the daughter she obviously loved so much,” he writes.
“The sad part is, she is not unique. There are over 50,000 full- time family carers in the Republic of Ireland, many of whom are doing exactly what Dr Scully was doing.
"This care is provided 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Along with the physical pressure that this causes, we also have the emotional and mental pressure of watching the person we love deteriorate, and in some cases like my own, move closer to death.”
Mr Curran says the State has a lot to answer for in the way it neglects the plight of carers. “If this was endured in different circumstances it would be regarded as torture. It is no wonder that carers make mistakes when trying to perform in these situations.”
Dr Scully, who attempted suicide after struggling to control what would be Emily’s final seizures, urged anyone else in a similar frame of mind to seek help.
“To anyone with mental health difficulties, or who has gone to that dark place of considering self-harm, I would plead with you to reach out to even one person and say how you feel and get the help you need,” she said.
She said she had been humbled by the kindness shown by her family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, the people of Tullamore and Edenderry, as well as by complete strangers, who had sent messages, cards, flowers, Mass bouquets, and letters.
“Your positive energy has helped me and my family enormously in surviving the past four years and, in particular, during the course of the trial,” she said.
Dr Scully, 58, of Tullamore, Co Offaly, had denied unlawfully killing Emily through gross negligence at their home in September 2012. Although she admitted administering more than the recommended maximum dose of the anticonvulsant medicine, chloral hydrate, she said she was exhausted, emotionally and mentally drained, and desperate to try to control the worst seizures she had witnessed her daughter suffer.
There is a possibility she may still face a Medical Council fitness-to-practice inquiry.
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