Parents lose fight to force resuscitation if baby stops breathing

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A High Court judge offered hope to the parents of the seriously ill premature baby Charlotte Wyatt yesterday when he granted them permission to submit expert evidence in court that their daughter's condition was improving.

A High Court judge offered hope to the parents of the seriously ill premature baby Charlotte Wyatt yesterday when he granted them permission to submit expert evidence in court that their daughter's condition was improving.

However, Mr Justice Hadley refused to suspend an earlier order that the child should not be resuscitated should she stop breathing. Another hearing will be held before Easter into the case of 15-month-old Charlotte, who weighed just 1lb and measured only 5in when she was born three months prematurely at St Mary's Hospital, Portsmouth.

She suffered serious brain, lung and kidney damage and is blind and deaf. Her medical team, which said she was likely to succumb to a respiratory infection over the winter, argued that there had been no underlying improvement in her condition and that her brain was not growing. Her father Darren Wyatt, 33, and mother Debbie, 23, contend that there is a glimmer of hope.

David Wolfe, who is representing Charlotte's parents, reminded the judge that at the last hearing in October the baby had been described as experiencing great pain and distress, but no pleasure, and needing substantial sedation. Her head was kept constantly in an oxygen box and her quality of life was said to be "terrible". "But the position has moved on," said Mr Wolfe.

One of the medical experts, Dr C, had reported that Charlotte now had "genuinely good days" when she received no sedatives and was taken out of her oxygen box. She could sit in a chair with a mask instead of the box and responded to stimulation. She would frown and grimace, although she did not smile, and responded in a limited way to light and sound.

David Lock, representing the Portsmouth hospital, said doctors believed that the outward signs of improvement were caused by getting the treatment regime right rather than manifestations of an improvement in her condition.

"What we are seeing here is the result of phenomenal expertise and care that has resulted in producing some very limited advances," he said. "The question is whether it would be in the child's best interests to apply that treatment bearing in mind what she would be likely to suffer in that process."

Mr Justice Hedley said he bore in mind the legal presumption in favour of preserving life. "The court indicates its delight in the improvements that have been observed in Charlotte. Nobody who knows this case could derive other than pleasure from that," he said. He added that there was no evidence at present that the improvements said to have been seen in Charlotte related to her underlying condition.

He continued: "I have had an opportunity to reflect with care on the arguments. I acknowledge specifically that future evidence may require the court to revise the original declarations that I made. Equally, future evidence may confirm the rightness of those declarations. At this moment, that remains an unresolved issue. With that in mind, I have arrived at the conclusion that I am not prepared to stay the order."

After the decision, the parents' solicitor, Richard Stein, said his clients were "naturally very disappointed" and were considering whether to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

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