Fate of Fetus Carried by Psychotic at Issue

Insight, 9/24/90

Denise Lefebvre, a Broward county, Fla., woman whose extreme psychosis is controlled by lithium, learned she was pregnant early this summer. Because lithium can harm fetuses, she stopped talking it. But without it Lefebvre, 28, became psychotic again and was hospitalized at Broward General Medical Center, where she has threatened to kill the baby and the nurses who take care of her and has written "satanic" messages in excrement on the walls. Now entering her third trimester, she is restrained in a bed, where she must stay until the pregnancy ends.

When Lefebvre stopped taking lithium during a pregnancy several years ago, she refused to eat and fell from 200 pounds to 80. The child died several days after birth. Managers at Broward General have sued to determine whether they should abort the fetus, which, they say, could threaten Lefebvre's life by keeping her off lithium.

Last month, a Florida appellate court rejected a ruling by Circuit Judge William Clayton Johnson allowing the abortion on the grounds that his emergency hearing had not followed statutory guidelines, the case now must be reviewed by a three-member panel, including at least one psychiatrist and one social worker, then by a court-appointed guardian and finally by the judge.

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