Ruling over future of brain damaged baby

Published Tuesday, 08 April 2014
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A baby who suffered irreversible brain damage can be removed from a ventilator keeping him alive, the High Court has ruled.

Ruling over future of brain damaged baby
Baby M was revived after his heart stopped last month. (© UTV)

Even though the five-month-old boy's parents opposed switching off the machine, a judge held that medical staff should not resuscitate him if the need arises.

According to Mr Justice O'Hara the child has no quality of life and will only suffer a deteriorating physical condition.

He said: "In short he has no meaningful life and no dignity nor will he have in the future."

The child, referred to as M, was involved in an incident last month which caused his heart to stop.

Despite doctors managing to get it pumping again his brain was starved of oxygen - inflicting overwhelming brain damage.

In all likelihood the child has been left blind, deaf, and severely mentally and physically disabled. He is not thought to be in pain because of the extent of the brain damage.

M is currently being kept alive by a ventilator because it is believed he could not breathe unaided for more than a short period of time.

Successive scans have shown no improvement, the court heard.

Doctors treating the baby believe he can never recover to any form of living which does not involve continual ventilation.

He would not be able to interact with anyone and would have no recognisable quality of life.

As part of their battle against having the ventilator switched off M's parents sent video clips of him in intensive care to a controversial figure, Professor Z, who claims to specialise in the rehabilitation of patients in another country.

Mr Justice O'Hara heard evidence from Professor Z that baby M could make a recovery if he was treated with, amongst other things, a technique of neuro-stimulation designed and demonstrated by him.

But doctors treating the baby claimed this was little more than massaging his face, head and limbs.

The Judge rejected Professor Z's contention that his technique would in any way start to reverse the brain damage.

He considered his evidence had merely given a distressed, grieving family false hope where there was none.

With M unable to make the decision for himself, Mr Justice O'Hara held it was up to the court to decide whether it is in his best interests to prolong his life by continuing the present medical treatment.

He also stressed that doctors were not seeking to take a positive step to end M's life such as through the injection of a drug.

Instead it was an application to withhold treatment which is prolonging the child's life artificially.

Mr Justice O'Hara acknowledged how the parents had powerfully and movingly expressed their wishes to him.

The distress and desperation of M's father is almost unimaginable, he said.

But in a verdict published on Tuesday, he concluded: "The extent of the damage to M is such that he has and will have no quality life, he will always be dependent, his physical condition will deteriorate and he will be prone to complications which will require further treatments.

"The prolongation of his life by ventilation can achieve nothing other than prolongation of life for its own sake.

"In circumstances of this case I do not believe that is enough."

Granting the application sought, the judge further ordered that M should receive the best possible palliative care.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Sjc3384 in Northern Ireland wrote (298 days ago):
Hw can a judge decide on a baby its God an his parents that should b making decisions
Belfast in Belfast wrote (299 days ago):
S in Bangor, the judge had listened to expert medical opinion.
Netownabbey in Netownabbey wrote (299 days ago):
This is such a sad situation,my heart goes out to the parents who are trying so desperately to keep their child alive.
heartbreakin in belfast wrote (299 days ago):
This is the most heartbreakin thing i have heard. This little child deserves a chance, the poor parents want to look after there baby so why should anyone have the right to say they cant. As a mother of a young child with bad brain damage i cant belive they wont let this child have a chance at a life with loving parents. Even if it would be a short life no judge should play god. Heartbroken for this baby and poor parents. In my prayers x
Sam in Ulster wrote (299 days ago):
To s in bangor. I understand what your saying but sometimes you have to face reality no matter how painful. Is it reasonable to artifically keep a human being alive for the remainder of its life. The burden upon the family would be most demanding.
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