Doctors win permission to let baby die

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The Independent Online

Doctors treating terminally-ill baby Luke Winston-Jones were today given permission to withhold life-saving treatment by mechanical ventilation if his condition deteriorates.

But Luke will still have the chance to receive cardiac massage if it becomes necessary.

This follows an announcement at the High Court in London by the hospital trusts involved in Luke's care that they were no longer seeking a declaration that cardiac massage would not be in the baby's best interests.

If Luke's condition worsens, High Court Judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss was told it would be a "matter for clinical judgment" whether or not to give him cardiac massage.

The judge, who is President of the High Court Family Division, had been asked to rule whether the nine-month-old, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder, should be resuscitated if his condition deteriorates or be allowed to die in peace.

Giving her ruling, the judge said that cardiac massage should remain an option if it was in Luke's best interests.

Luke's mother Ruth Winston-Jones, 35, from Holyhead in North Wales, accepted in court yesterday that he was terminally ill - but insisted that he should not be allowed to die without a fight.

Lawyers for Ms Winston-Jones told the court she realised that Luke's life would be short and she did not want him to suffer pain.

But she challenged the view of doctors that, if his condition became critical, it would not be in his best interests to resuscitate him by way of cardiac massage or mechanical ventilation.

As Ms Winston-Jones left court, she said: "Thank you to everyone for their belief in me."

Dame Elizabeth expressed the hope that doctors and mother would now work together to ensure that Luke's remaining life would be peaceful.

Ms Winston-Jones had "persistently and resolutely" helped her son to fight for his life, said the judge, and this had brought her into conflict with the professional teams caring for Luke.

The judge said: "Now I hope the case is over. I hope that she can go back to pick up her child and help to care for him.

"It is important that everyone in this case, both hospitals and particularly the mother and her family, who have been so supportive of her, should turn over a new leaf and move forward.

"The mother must accept the clinical judgment of the doctors who are caring for her child, who will, of course, have in mind what I have said in this judgment.

"It is the duty of the mother for the sake of Luke to reduce areas of conflict to a minimum and listen to what is proposed by those who have a great deal of medical and nursing experience."

The mother wept as the judge said: "I very much hope that she and Luke will have the longest possible peaceful and happy period together and that her view that he has as much for the future as he had in the past will be realised."

Luke suffers from Edwards Syndrome, which severely affects most organs of the body. Few babies survive beyond a year.

The judge was asked by the Royal Liverpool Children's NHS Trust and North West Wales NHS for a declaration on what treatment was required and what should be withheld in the absence of agreement between doctors and his mother.

The case followed a judge's ruling earlier this month giving doctors permission not to ventilate tiny premature baby Charlotte Wyatt if her breathing stops. Charlotte reached her first birthday yesterday.

The court heard that Ms Winston-Jones had agreed a palliative care plan aimed at allowing Luke to return home and had been training in heart massage and resuscitation techniques.