Court Prevents Ventilator For Baby
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 8, 2004
LONDON, ENGLAND--The High Court of London has ruled that doctors are not to try to keep 11-month-old Charlotte Wyatt alive if she stops breathing.
Charlotte was born three months premature. Doctors at St. Mary's Hospital say that she now is blind and deaf, and weighs just 5.6 kilograms (12.4 pounds). The infant gets her food and water through a feeding tube, and has been placed on a ventilator three times because of serious heart and lung problems.
If she stops breathing again, she will only be kept alive long enough for her parents to come and be with her when she dies, the Court ruled Thursday.
Doctors believe Charlotte will likely die of a lung infection this coming winter.
David Lock, an attorney for Portsmouth Hospitals National Health Service Trust, which includes St. Mary's Hospital, told the court that medical consultants believe Charlotte "has life-limiting conditions and that, despite their best efforts, she has no feelings other than continuing pain. Her quality of life is both terrible and permanent and they cannot see a way in which it would significantly improve".
Lock said one pediatric neurology consultant had remarked that Charlotte "has no visual awareness and does not respond to sound . . . she does not respond to being cuddled and demonstrates no awareness of familiar persons . . . she has no volition (will to live)".
Mr. Justice Hedley told the Court, "I have come to a clear view I do not believe any further aggressive treatment to prolong her life is in her best interests."
The justice said he had considered allowing doctors to insert a breathing tube into Charlotte's throat, but had decided against it.
Doctors brought the case to the Court because Charlotte's parents did not agree with their plans.
Darren and Debbie Wyatt described their daughter as "a fighter" who should be given every chance to continue living. They told the Court that she notices her surroundings and that she "really brightens up" when they and her 20-month-old brother, Daniel, spend time with her.
"When you get to the stage when you grow to love someone, you can't just throw them away like a bad egg and say you will get a different egg," Darren Wyatt explained.
Charlotte's parents said they would not challenge the Court's decision.
In a public statement through their attorney, the Wyatts said they felt it was "most important that the issues in the case have been aired in public because as a result everyone has had an opportunity to consider the extremely difficult issues faced by them and numerous other parents in their position."
"We're not happy about the decision but we accept it," Mr. Wyatt said. "We will surround Charlotte with tender loving care and when the moment comes, we will let her die in our arms."
"At least we'll know we did everything we could for her."
The mental health charity Mencap told the Evening Times that it was disappointed with the decision, and that doctors should not make assumptions about the quality of life for children that have disabilities.
Nuala Scarisbrick, of the pro-life charity Life, told the BBC, "Instead of admitting that they had failed, the doctors talked mainly about her 'quality of life' being so wretched that she was better off dead. That is quite unacceptable."