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Charlotte Wyatt Gets 'Best Possible Birthday Present'
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 24, 2005

PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND--The family of Charlotte Wyatt learned on Friday -- their daughter's second birthday -- that a court order they considered dangerous had been lifted.

"This is the best birthday present Charlotte could have had," Darren Wyatt, 33, told reporters.

Mr. Wyatt and his wife, Debbie, 24, were informed that the High Court's Mr. Justice Hedley decided to remove the order he imposed one year ago. That order allowed doctors at St. Mary's Hospital to refuse to provide a ventilator for Charlotte if she stopped breathing on her own.

Charlotte was born three months premature on October 21, 2003. Doctors have insisted that she 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 last October that she would develop a lung infection during the winter and would stop breathing. At the time, Hedley agreed with the hospital that it would be in Charlotte's best interest to leave her to die if she stops breathing on her own.

At first, Charlotte's parents said they accepted the court order, but later resolved to fight to keep their daughter alive. The Wyatts now claim that their daughter reaches out to them, tries to talk and sit up, likes to watch her toys, and stays outside for up to 40 minutes at a time.

Last Friday, Hedley said he pulled the order because Charlotte's condition has improved to the point that she might be able to survive. During a hearing earlier this month, her doctor said Charlotte's quality of life was now "tolerable".

Even without the court order, however, the doctors could still decide to withdraw treatment if they believe doing so would be in Charlotte's best interest. The decision is still up to the doctors, he said, following their consciences, and hopefully with consultation with the parents.

Still, Mr. Wyatt said: "We are very happy. This is the best birthday present. She can get on with her life now. We have not got this huge black cloud hanging over us now from the stress of the order."

The Wyatts said they would now work on the next step -- taking Charlotte home to stay with them.

Charlotte's case and those of similar children highlight the disagreement between disability rights groups and medical professionals over who should determine the quality of life of people with disabilities and who should decide whether patients -- particularly newborns -- with certain disabilities or medical conditions should die.

Related:
"Parents of disabled two-year-old win resuscitation ruling" (The Guardian)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,16518,1598044,00.html
"What does the Wyatt judgment mean?" (BBC)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4363800.stm

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