Today, Ms Justice Russell (Family Division, UK High Court) ruled that a one-year-old boy with brain damage should be taken off a life-support machine despite his parents’ pleas to keep him alive. (Daily Mail 1)
The NHS foundation trust which runs the hospital where the youngster is being cared for brought the petition.
The boy was born prematurely by emergency Cesarean section in ‘poor condition’ and he required resuscitation and ventilation at birth. In late 2013, he had suffered an “acute cardiorespiratory deterioration” apparently due to medical error. This required him to be mechanically ventilated once again. He has been ventilator dependent and his condition had not improved despite ‘on-going intensive care. Doctors concluded that: (1) he baby had suffered irreversible brain damage, (2) there was no prospect of recovery, and (3) it was in the youngster’s best interests for live-sustaining treatment to be withdrawn.
The boy’s devout Christian parents disagreed. The parents would not agree to the withdrawal of ventilation. They believed that their son responds to them. As committed and devout Christians they did not feel they had the right to agree to life-sustaining treatment being withdrawn. They believed that given time God may work a miracle. (Daily Mail 2)
- “At the end of the day he is still alive. The ventilator is helping and supporting that life. Where there is life, I don’t think you should get the right to determine whether that should be taken away.”
- “We believe that (he) does respond to us as parents. We don’t feel that the trust has the right to end his life because he has got brain damage.”
- “Miracles do happen.”
- “Even though he is going through all these problems, he still knows … what is going on. This child still feels. I spend a lot of time with him, talking to him. I know when he is listening … We know he is reacting to certain things.”
- “He still has life. We don’t have the right, as parents, as individuals, to take this privilege from him.”
The judge gave the trust permission to withdraw life-sustaining ventilation. She said that she had reached the decision ‘very sadly’ and with ‘great reluctance’. She said she had to gauge what was in the little boy’s best interests after balancing medical evidence against his parents’ views.