Judge tells parents to let baby die

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The Independent Online

Two parents were told by a judge yesterday that they could not demand "everything should be done" to resuscitate their severely disabled 19-month-old son if he needed to be treated in intensive care.

Two parents were told by a judge yesterday that they could not demand "everything should be done" to resuscitate their severely disabled 19-month-old son if he needed to be treated in intensive care.

Mr Justice Cazalet ruled that doctors should treat the child to ease his suffering but also be allowed to let him die "peacefully and with dignity".

The boy - referred to only as "I" - was born with irreversible lung disease and a brain abnormality and needs 24-hour oxygen and expert care and supervision.

Healthcare workers gave evidence that he was able to respond to his parents, had a "delightful smile" and was able move his hand to indicate good-bye. His parents argued that doctors were not properly recognising that he had some enjoyment from life.

The judge paid tribute to the devotion of the baby's parents, who he said were in an "agonising situation" but ruled that the weight of the evidence was against any further mechanical ventilation. He said the parents had "become prone to being over-optimistic as to where the developments may lead".

"The fact is that one has to bear in mind, as I know they are aware, that there is ever present the tragic, irreversible worsening lung condition from which 'I' suffers," he said.

The baby was born prematurely and spent eight months in hospital before being handed over to his parents. Most of his visits to hospital have been as an outpatient for treatment of breathing difficulties but in February this year he needed intensive care at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London because of respiratory failure.

Last month, he was again admitted to hospital and the main consultant warned the parents that their child was "very ill". They insisted that everything should be done to save him, including intensive care, but doctors disagreed and a London hospital trust began court proceedings and he was made a ward of court.

The judge said he had seen pictures of the child, showing a tube through his left nostril providing a supply of extra oxygen and tubes for feeding.

He said the chief consultant in the case had warned that his condition would deteriorate quickly and any further artificial ventilation will cause him "distress, discomfort and pain" and eventually a death "which was neither peaceful nor dignified".