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Parent Argue For Baby Charlotte's Life
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 25, 2005

CARDIFF, WALES--Whether Charlotte Wyatt can have use of a ventilator if she stops breathing will be decided by a High Court judge next month.

Last week, Mr. Justice Hedley heard two days of testimony in the case of the 17-month-old girl who was born three months premature in October 2003.

Doctors at St. Mary's Children's Hospital convinced the court in October 2004 that it would not be in Charlotte's best interest to be kept alive if she stops breathing on her own. They claim that the girl has serious heart and lung problems, is deaf and blind, makes no movement on her own and feels no sensations except constant pain. They had predicted that the child would develop a lung infection during the winter and would stop breathing.

Her parents, Darren, 33, and Debbie Wyatt, 23, have argued that doctors did not correctly diagnose their daughter's condition and are condemning her to death. They claim that Charlotte now responds to light, sound and cuddling.

On Monday, a pediatrician identified only as Dr. C. told the court that Charlotte has little hope of improving.

"There has been no brain growth which is a clear marker of very profound impairment," said Dr. C. "There is a degree of latitude for example as she does begin to smile a bit more, but ultimately it is bounded (limited)."

A Dr. H. told the court that an acute respiratory infection would cause Charlotte's death.

"To ventilate would only postpone it," Dr. H. said. "I cannot really envisage a situation where it would be in her interests."

She admitted, however, that Charlotte's condition has improved since the first of the year.

"Her general condition improved, she was more settled, spending more time awake but not in distress, and not requiring as much sedation," Dr. H. said of Charlotte. "She does make facial movements but I have never seen her smile, and I have held her, and talked to her and engaged with her. She kicks her legs but she kicks her legs because she can't do anything else I feel, not because she is experiencing any emotion."

According to the Telegraph, another unnamed medical expert testified last July that Charlotte was "at Death's door", but that she has improved substantially since October.

At one point Darren Wyatt interrupted the testimony.

"The hospital is telling lies, we have got it on film," he shouted. "Why will no-one accept the truth? You can't judge a child's life."

He then quickly left the courtroom.

David Wolffe, the attorney representing Charlotte's parents, told the court that the judge's ruling was "sending out a very profound and very wrong message about what we as a society say about disabled people."

"If you focus on the question that whether the life for which Charlotte would be saved (if she was put on ventilation) would be intolerable, there is a great deal of uncertainty."

Mr. Justice Hedley said he would rule on the case on April 21.

Disability rights groups have been watching cases such as Charlotte's with interest. Her situation underscores a growing disagreement with medical professionals in the United Kingdom and elsewhere over who should decide whether a person with certain disabilities or medical conditions should live or die.

Related:
"Proof that Charlotte should be saved" (The Telegraph)
"Fighting for a child's life is fraught with emotion" (The Scotsman)

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