`Why I won't allow them to let my son die'

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The Independent Online
A MOTHER who refused to let her disabled son die after doctors withdrew life-saving treatment has spoken for the first time about her battle.

Carol Glass, 38, lost a High Court case last week, seeking a declaration that the doctors had acted unlawfully. She wanted to ensure that her son, David, 12, would be entitled to life-saving treatment if he was admitted to hospital again.

"I will carry on fighting for David. It is not just for him but for every little child out there with problems. They are not second rate, they're born with problems. You don't love your child differently because they are handicapped - or at least I don't," said Mrs Glass.

David, one of Mrs Glass's four children, has been disabled since birth. He was born with water on the brain, is blind, and suffers from spastic quadriplegia.

In October 1998 he was admitted to St Mary's Hospital, Portsmouth, with pneumonia. Doctors decided that there was nothing they could do to save him and wanted to let nature take its course. They withdrew treatment and administered diamorphine, a painkiller that can hasten death.

"The doctors would do nothing for David," says Mrs Glass in an interview with Martin Bashir to be broadcast this evening on ITV's Tonight programme. "He was going blue. I just kept on talking to him and, after an hour and a half, I thought, `This boy can't fight, he can't come back', so I prepared him to die. I sat there stroking him, thinking `... David, I couldn't save you'. But then my daughter became so hysterical. David opened his eyes and I knew he wasn't dead. We just kept on singing to him ... and he started to come back.

"This little boy had a chance. He was in a coma. He needed to be roused from this coma. He wanted to fight. If David had wanted to die, he would have died - nothing we did saved him. He wanted to come back to his family."

The disturbance that was caused by the family resuscitating David is the subject of a separate criminal proceeding.

John Bevan, medical director of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS trust, said yesterday: "This is a tragic and complex case that raises ethical, legal and clinical issues. The doctors and nurses involved in David's care have endeavoured at all times to provide treatment compatible with his clinical condition. The trust is clear that the clinicians involved in David Glass's care made the appropriate clinical decisions in managing this case."

In response to events in David's case, the trust has arranged for appropriate active care to continue to be available.

Mark Ashton, a consultant paediatrician, said in a statement to the court last week that David had been pulled from his bed to stimulate breathing. "In my view this was extremely cruel. He should have been allowed to pass away peacefully and with dignity. It was not in his best interests simply to keep him alive."

Mrs Glass says that David is now enjoying the same quality of life he had before he went into hospital. She admits that his quality of life is different from able-bodied children, but insists that he enjoys and appreciates being alive. He plays with his sisters, laughs and smiles, and enjoys days out with the family. "He is different, in that he can't walk or talk, but he has got the same feelings as any other child," she says.

Dr Richard Hughes, who has been David's GP for the past 18 months, said he thought the family were remarkable. "They've adapted their lives quite enormously to cope with a child with a major handicap, which they accept will not get better and cannot be cured. They've looked on him as a blessing rather than a curse."

`Tonight with Trevor McDonald', ITV, today, 10pm