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Baby Charlotte's Parents Again Told "No" On Life-Saving Measures
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 22, 2005

PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND--While acknowledging that 18-month-old Charlotte Wyatt's condition has improved in recent months, Mr. Justice Hedley ruled Thursday that it would still be in her best interest to leave her to die if she stops breathing.

It was the latest in a series of court decisions against her parents, Darren, 33, and Debbie Wyatt, 23. The couple said they now plan to take their daughter's struggle to stay alive to the Court of Appeal.

Doctors at St. Mary's Children's Hospital convinced the High 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 claimed that the girl, who was born three months premature, 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.

Last month, her parents pushed for a new hearing asking the court to throw out the earlier ruling. They argued that the decision whether to save her life should be made at the time of the crisis, taking in the specific circumstances, rather than months in advance. The Wyatts claimed that doctors did not correctly diagnose their daughter's condition and, therefore, condemned her to death. They brought evidence supporting their claims that Charlotte now responds to light, sound and cuddling.

Justice Hedley said that Charlotte's ability to respond recently to some noises and track the movement of a colorful toy showed an improvement in her condition since October. He agreed that her life could no longer be described as 'intolerable'.

In spite of this, the judge said he was convinced that Charlotte remained "a terminally ill child" because her chronic respiratory disease is still expected to be fatal. Only one of the doctors who testified suggested that Charlotte should be resuscitated if she stops breathing.

The cases of Charlotte and similar children highlight the disagreement between disability rights groups and medical professionals over who should decide whether people -- particularly newborns -- with certain disabilities or medical conditions should die.

Last November, nine-month-old Luke Winston-Jones, who was born with Edwards syndrome, died in a Liverpool hospital. His death came three weeks after the High Court Family Division ruled that doctors could refuse to resuscitate him when he stopped breathing.

Related:
"Despair for Charlotte's parents" (The Scotsman)

http://news.scotsman.com/health.cfm?id=428182005

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