The UK’s first FGM prosecution
Second guessing the DPP
The extraordinary trial of Dr Dharmasena, the obstetric registrar, who repaired a woman’s vagina after childbirth and now finds himself accused of performing female genital mutilation (FGM), has started (click here).
The case, as presented by the director of public prosecutions (DPP) last year, made so little sense that informed commentators (click here) assumed a political motivation, and that it would either be quietly dropped or that some new detail would emerge to justify prosecution.
Perhaps the prosecutor would bring the victim to the stand to tell the court how she had begged Dr D to leave her labia unsutured, and he had said something like: “No. Your husband wants a wife with adherent labia, so I’m going to re-suture them closed.” I doubt this is the DPP’s case because we are told the alleged victim has not even made a statement. If it were, it would indeed be terrible medicine, but not FGM; operating without patient consent is assault.
Or perhaps Dr D and the husband had colluded to remove more tissue during the re-suturing. But nothing like that is alleged in the prosecution’s case, at least as summarised in the Guardian (click here).
It appears that, either at her request, her husband’s request, or at her request through her husband, or to stop bleeding, or because he thought that was what everyone else did, or as a result of some combination of these reasons, (Dr D is alleged to have changed his story) Dr D restored the anatomy the patient came in with. He couldn’t restore it to her birth state, because the labia and clitoris had been thrown away somewhere in Somalia, but the prosecutor seems to think he should have got a bit nearer to that ideal.
I confess I’ve missed the law about restoring anatomy. What would such a law say if the woman had become accustomed to her post FGM anatomy, and asked to stick with what she knew? Perhaps the midwife, Aimma Ali, who is said to have objected to Dr D resuturing the labia at all, will shed some light.
It’s tough being an obstetrician. We not only have to keep parents and family onside – everyone’s an expert in how to deliver babies – and to make every decision with half an eye on the civil courts if a bad outcome ensues, but now we also have to second guess the DPP’s idea of an acceptable anatomical result.