A terminally ill baby is to be allowed to die after judges last night ended his parents' bid to force doctors to continue treating the child.
The nine-month-old boy, identified only by the letters OT, has a rare metabolic disorder, brain damage and is unable to breathe without a ventilator. Doctors decided that the child had no chance of recovery and treatment should be stopped as he was in unbearable pain. One said keeping him alive amounted to "torture".
The child's parents disagreed and fought an application by the NHS trust involved for a declaration from the court that withdrawal of treatment was in the child's best interests.
In a hearing earlier this month, they showed a film in which baby OT smiled as his mother sang to him and stroked his head.
However in a hearing late yesterday evening, two Court of Appeal judges refused to let the couple challenge a ruling on Thursday by Mrs Justice Parker, which gave the hospital the right to stop treatment. Lord Justice Ward, who had been told the parents could not face listening to the decision of the court and were waiting outside, said last night: "We are not unmindful of the horror of their predicament."
He said he would like to have addressed them personally, but asked their lawyers to pass on the message that although the hearing seeking permission to appeal had been conducted "in a brusque, uncaring, unfeeling way on a crude issue of law", he wanted to tell them it was impossible not to feel the "deepest sympathy for their predicament".
"One has great respect and admiration for them," he said. The court order allowing doctors to withdraw treatment came into effect immediately last night as there was no further avenue of appeal for the parents.
Mr and Mrs T – who, along with the trust and the child, cannot be identified because of orders issued by the courts – wanted doctors to keep their son alive as long as possible, providing that did not cause him unacceptable suffering.
In the filmed footage of the baby shown to the court earlier this month, he was seen being cuddled and kissed by his parents. The child, who was in a cot filled with toy teddy bears, was shown sucking his mother's finger as she sang to him and stroked his head.
He gave a brief smile during the filming, which the family's lawyer said showed the boy could interact with other people. Christopher Cuddihee, the solicitor for Mr and Mrs T, said: "My clients love their son deeply. They accept their son is seriously disabled and at the moment is very ill. But they do not accept the court's finding that as a result of medical treatment he suffers intolerable pain and suffering.
"Nor do they accept that his quality of life is so poor that medical treatment is futile and should now be stopped."
However a doctor, identified only by the initial C, told the earlier hearing that he was certain baby OT would be dead by the age of five. "What we are looking at is the quality of his life," he said. "Yes, I can understand that the parents may get tremendous pleasure from their interaction with him."
However the issue was the child's "quality of life", the doctor said: "How much pain and suffering should he be made to bear when the pleasures he gets from life are few and far between?"
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