Court to decide fate of sick baby despite mother's appeal

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The Independent Online

A hospital yesterday applied to the High Court for permission not to resuscitate a desperately-ill baby boy, in defiance of his mother's wishes.

A hospital yesterday applied to the High Court for permission not to resuscitate a desperately-ill baby boy, in defiance of his mother's wishes.

Doctors say that nine-month-old Luke Winston-Jones is so ill and disabled that it is not in his best interests to continue treatment if he stops breathing.

Luke's mother Ruth has refused to give her consent to withdrawal of treatment and has accused doctors of "playing God" with her son. The case comes just a week after a judge ruled that 11-month-old Charlotte Wyatt should not be revived, despite her parents' pleas for her to be kept alive.

Luke is being treated at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, where he is described as being in "a very poorly and fragile state".

But Mrs Winston-Jones, from Holyhead, north Wales, said: "Luke should be given the chance to live. How can they think of destroying a life and sending him to the grave?"

Luke was born with a rare genetic disorder called Edwards Syndrome, which causes severe physical and mental developmental problems. Babies born with the condition have an average lifespan of two months and less than 10 per cent survive for more than a year.

There is no cure or treatment for the syndrome, which is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome in each cell. Luke also has three holes in his heart and other physical and mental complications caused by the condition. The Alder Hey medical team say that "aggressive" treatment is not in his best interests as it will not prolong his life or improve his condition.

Steve Ryan, medical director of the hospital, said: "We have a difference of opinion with Luke's mother. That is why we need to approach the court and ask for their judgement."

Lawyers for the hospital began the legal action yesterday after discussions between doctors and Mrs Winston-Jones ended in stalemate.

Luke was born at Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital in Bangor, north Wales, where he was being treated until last week. In July, doctors at Bangor hospital decided to apply for a similar High Court ruling, but pulled out at the last minute.

Luke was transferred to Alder Hey last week for tests, and is now being treated at the hospital's high dependency unit.

A hospital spokesman said: "Doctors and nurses have explained to his parents the extremely poor outlook for Luke. Rare cases such as this present a real ethical dilemma.

The case is similar to last week's High Court ruling on Charlotte Wyatt, who sufferers from profound physical and mental disabilities. Doctors treating her claimed she had an "intolerable" quality of life and that it was "cruel and futile" to keep her alive.

Despite her parent's pleas for her to be put on a ventilator if she stops breathing, Mr Justice Hedley ruled that Charlotte should not be resuscitated again and instead allowed to "die with dignity".

The Wyatt case went to the heart of what constitutes a decent quality of life and whether doctors should be able to overrule parents in life or death decisions.

Like Charlotte's parents, Luke's mother believes her son does have a quality of life which should be respected.

"He looks. He feels. He's got all the responses," she said. "Anybody who spends time with him can see how strong he is. Luke has not given up so neither will we."

Mrs Winston-Jones, who is separated with two children aged 12 and seven, has vowed to fight doctors "all the way".