Muslim parents of brain-damaged baby lose High Court battle
Muslim parents of severely brain-damaged four-month-old baby who believed it was a miracle that he began to breathe after medics decided he was dead lose High Court battle to keep him alive on life support
- Parents of a baby with brain damage lost their bid to keep him on life support
- The four-month-old is brain dead according to St Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital
- But lawyers returned to court after a nurse noticed the boy trying to breathe
- The parents, of Muslim Bangledeshi origin, regarded this as a sign of a miracle
- But experts told Mr Justice Hayden today the boy’s brain damage is irreparable
The parents of a seriously ill baby who started trying to breathe after doctors decided he was dead have lost a High Court life support treatment fight.
Bosses at a London hospital trust responsible for the four-month-old boy’s care became involved in a treatment dispute with his parents earlier this summer and asked a judge to consider the case.
Lawyers representing Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said tests showed that the boy, who has suffered a serious brain injury and is on a ventilator, was brain stem dead and wanted a declaration of death.
But they subsequently returned to court and told Mr Justice Hayden that a nurse had noticed the boy trying to breathe, more than a week after doctors had carried out brain stem tests and concluded he had died.
Specialists rescinded ‘the clinical ascertainment of death’ and trust bosses asked Mr Justice Hayden to decide instead what moves were in the boy’s best interests.
The judge oversaw a trial in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Thursday and on Friday ruled that ventilation should be withdrawn and only palliative care provided.
He told the boy’s parents: ‘I am so sorry.’
Lawyers representing Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said tests showed that the boy, who has suffered a serious brain injury and is on a ventilator, was brain stem dead and wanted a declaration of death
He said he had to decide what moves were in the baby’s best interests and said evidence showed that the baby was dying.
‘It is impossible to escape the conclusion that treatment has failed,’ he said in his ruling. ‘It protracts death rather than promotes life.’
He added: ‘Continued ventilation will serve here only to protract death.’
The judge said because of the severity of the baby’s brain injury he had a ‘complete absence of ability to benefit from treatment’.
Barrister David Lawson, who led the hospital’s legal team, told Mr Justice Hayden that the boy was dying.
Mr Lawson said the boy had suffered a ‘devastating’ brain injury and asked the judge to rule that he should now follow a ‘palliative care pathway’.
A specialist told the judge nothing could be done to help the boy.
The boy’s parents, Muslims of Bangladeshi origin, viewed his breathing attempts as a miracle and want him to remain on a ventilator.
They indicated that they planned to mount an appeal against Mr Justice Hayden’s decision.
The hearing had earlier been told how a fatwa – a ruling on a point of Islamic law – had been issued, seemingly from a madrasa, a Muslim school, in Bangladesh.
The fatwa, which is not addressed to any specific person, says the boy is on ‘life support’ and is ‘sure to be alive’.
‘He cannot be taken off life support in any way and pushed to the lap of death,’ it says.
‘It is completely haram and heinous sin according to Islamic Shariah.’
Barrister David Lawson, representing the hospital trust, told the High Court the boy had suffered a ‘devastating’ brain injury and asked the judge to rule that he should now follow a ‘palliative care pathway’
A senior doctor involved in the boy’s care had told the judge that she did not not know whether there were other similar cases.
The doctor said she had never seen such a situation before and told the judge that a review was ongoing.
She apologised to the boy’s parents.
‘I think it must be just beyond comprehension (for the parents),’ she said. ‘That doctors looking after their baby can have made what appears to be such a horrible error.’
The judge was told the baby had remained on a ventilator, even though tests had shown him to be brain stem dead, because there was an ongoing court dispute.
‘I don’t know in all honesty whether there are other cases like this,’ the doctor told Mr Justice Hayden. ‘We are currently reviewing it as professionals.’
The doctor, who at one stage wept while giving evidence, added: ‘I can only say I am terribly sorry for what has happened.
‘It has only made a very difficult situation even more difficult.’
The doctor told the judge that the boy had a severe brain injury, was ‘dying’ and said palliative care would now be in his best interests. She said he would have a cardiac arrest and resuscitation would fail.
‘The little human being that he was,’ she said, ‘he is no longer.’
She added: ‘We have still got his body here but the little person he was is no longer. He will never come back. He should be allowed to go.’
Another specialist told the judge nothing could be done to help the boy.
He said brain tissue had turned to water.
Mr Justice Hayden said the case raised ‘important questions’.
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