God Save Us

Friday, April 22, 2005

God Save Us

Not again. Please, not again.
Rejecting a bid by the parents, a British judge on Thursday upheld a court order allowing doctors to let a critically ill baby die if she stops breathing — a move doctors say is the only humane way to end the child's suffering.
I remind you that the U.K. will have a general election in less than two weeks. I'm not saying I agree with the judge or think this is the right decision morally--indeed, from what appears in the news story, I have terrifically strong reservations about it. But I'm cringing at the thought of the potential media circus.

Charlotte was born in October 2003, just six months into her mother's pregnancy. She has had serious heart and lung problems, has never left the hospital and is fed through a tube and lives in an oxygen tent.

She has stopped breathing three times, and in October the High Court ruled that doctors at St. Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth, southwest England do not need to resuscitate her if she stops breathing again.

I'm not sure whether yesterday's ruling was on an appeal from the October order or, as seems more likely, followed a request that the same court reconsider its order. Either way, the order was upheld.

If the baby stops breathing, she will be given treatment except for invasive routines of intubation and ventilation — "but nothing further," [Justice Mark] Hedley said...

The judge agreed that the baby now responds to loud noises and tracks the movement of a colorful toy — in contrast to October, when she was almost wholly unresponsive. Her life could no longer be described as intolerable, he said.

But Hedley added that Charlotte's chronic respiratory disease is still expected to be fatal and her neurological condition is as bad as it could be. Her head was still the size of a newborn baby's and there had been no brain growth, leaving her "a terminally ill child."

Here's the bizarre part. You might think this is different from the Schiavo case because here the parents who want to keep their child alive aren't opposed by a spouse with a different point of view. But the U.K. case also comes with inter-family disagreement--from what seems an unlikely source.

Charlotte's grandmother, Julie Wyatt, supported the child's doctors.

"Myself, I'm trusting the hospital decision at the moment because I've seen the care they've given her and I know they love her," she said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. TV. "They are not withholding any treatment at all and I do believe that if they don't resuscitate her, it is for Charlotte's best interests, to be quite honest."

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