Croydon mother fears losing her seriously ill daughter in custody battle

Portrait of young Melody Driscoll. Pic: Malika Fachrou

The Croydon mother of a seriously ill girl facing a legal battle to keep custody of her daughter told ELL she felt “ripped to shreds” by social services and the hospital involved.

Melody Driscoll, 11, was born with the rare genetic disorder Rett Syndrome which affects brain development. She is unable to speak, suffers from a range of complex medical conditions and is at King’s college Hospital (KCH).

Croydon Council, on advice from KCH, is taking legal action to take Melody into foster care, claiming that her parents are “obstructing her care”.Her mother, Karina Driscoll wants Melody to continue using morphine after the hospital said they would wean Melody off the pain-killer over concerns it is damaging her liver.


Karina Driscoll in her living-room with the letter of Croydon Council. Pic: Malika Fachrou


To prevent Melody being taken into foster care, Driscoll is seeking the help of the solicitors who represented Charlie Gard’s parents in their fight to prolong their son’s life.  Melody was put on morphine and steroids in 2013 and Driscoll said the family saw a huge improvement in her well-being.

Driscoll told ELL she believes her daughter’s health has deteriorated since the change in her care plan. “When she has pain relief she is so happy. They are just destroying that. She is fading away in front of us.” She received a letter from Croydon Council at the end of last year informing her of a plan to begin court proceedings. “If she is taken away from me how much longer is she going to be able to live for?” Driscoll said. The doctors now give Melody paracetamol, she said. “The doctors say she has no pain. It’s just naughty behaviour. How can someone scream out in pain and it be labelled as naughty behaviour?”

The letter to Driscoll from Croydon children’s services, seen by ELL, says the hospital has “significant concerns around your refusal to allow the medical professionals to treat Melody and give her quality of life by obstructing and refusing to co-operate with her medical care plan.” It also claims that Driscoll has been “administering pain relief medication for Melody when it was not needed”.

It warns: “The consultants at KCH have advised of the harmful risks that continued use of morphine could cause to Melody’s liver which could eventually lead to her death.”The Council said doctors have reported they are struggling to keep Melody safe and it is therefore “writing to let you know that we are going to Court to make sure Melody remains safe”.

Croydon Council said in a statement: “We will always seek to work with parents and hear the views of the child and the family”.

Driscoll, however, said the letter was a shock. “We tried to get a meeting with King’s and social services to come to an agreement together, but the doctors refused. They are not interested in compromise. They want to take away the medication and that’s it.”


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