Baby's life support to be switched off despite parents' plea that 'miracles can happen'

A High Court judge ruled against parents' wishes to keep their son alive

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A baby boy’s life support machine is to be switched off against his parents’ wishes after a High Court judge ruled it was in his best interest.

The one-year-old, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, suffered “profound and irreversible brain damage” after being born prematurely in an emergency caesarean section last year.

Specialists had told Ms Justice Russell that it was in the baby’s best interests for “life-sustaining intensive care” including mechanical ventilation that he would need for the rest of his life to be withdrawn.

But the boy’s parents made an emotional appeal to the court, saying their son’s life should not be ended because he has brain damage.

His mother told the judge: “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.”

Saying she had seen her son's eyes move, she said she believes the baby responds to his parents’ presence and the NHS trust running the hospital does not have the right to allow him to die.

“He is still alive,” she added. “Miracles do happen.”

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The baby is in intensive care on life support

The boy's father told the court that he “knows what is going on” and was making “improvements”.

“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 added.

"It seems like they have no consideration as to how we feel or our views about him. We have been told that this child is not even our child any more.

“I just cannot believe they can come out with some of these things. I feel it is wrong, very wrong.”

Ms Justice Russell heard the case at the Family Division of the High Court in London after an application by the NHS foundation trust that runs the hospital.

On Tuesday, she reached her decision with "great reluctance" after balancing the boy's best interests and medical evidence against the views of his parents.

"This case is unbearably sad," she said.

"As committed and devout Christians his parents don't feel they have the right to agree to life-sustaining treatment being withdrawn.

“It is their belief that given time God may work a miracle.

"I have nothing but sympathy for them and admire the love and devotion they have shown.

“The parents believe in the possibility of recovery - that is not the opinion of the medical experts.”

The court heard doctors’ evidence that the baby was unable to move, breathe or swallow for himself without the help of “invasive” tubes.

Specialists said that were he to survive, he would be profoundly impaired and there was more likelihood of deterioration than improvement in his condition.

There was no evidence of the boy being able to see or hear, they said, or that he was aware of the outside world or of “himself as a person”.

Claire Watson, representing the NHS trust involved, said he had required resuscitation and ventilation at birth and later suffered an “acute cardio-respiratory deterioration” that required him to be put back on life support.

She indicated that something had “gone wrong” with his care but gave no details.

But Ms Justice Watson said there had been “multiple failures in the multi-disciplinary team caring for him” and the baby went into cardiac arrest for 20 minutes.

Ms Watson told the court that an investigation was carried out and said the hospital had been “entirely transparent about what has gone wrong".

The judge made an order stipulating that the NHS trust involved could not be identified as long as the boy was alive. 

Additional reporting by PA