Courts overrule parents in fight to keep baby alive
Infant had severe brain damage and respiratory failure
A fight in the courts over whether to keep treating a seriously ill baby boy
has ended with the child’s death. The High Court, in London, ruled that it was
in the baby’s best interests to withdraw "life-sustaining treatment". The child,
called "Baby OT" by the court, and thought to be the child of Muslim parents
from Afghanistan, had a rare metabolic disorder which caused severe brain damage
and respiratory failure.
Through their lawyer the couple told the media that "During his short time
with us, OT became the focus of our lives. We were present during his last
moments, together with [his] extended family. He died peacefully. We will miss
him greatly and wish to say that we are proud to have known our beautiful son
for his brief life."
It is hard to assess from media reports whether this was a case of the
withdrawal of burdensome treatment in the best interests of the baby, or of
withdrawal of futile care in the best interests of the hospital. Apparently the
child was often in pain.
The judge, Mrs Justice Parker said: "OT is a unique human being. His life is
valuable. But OT does not have the right to be kept alive in all circumstances.
OT has the right to life. OT does not have the right to be kept alive."
The British Medical Association and some Christian professional associations
supported the first interpretation. The Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, Peter
Smith, commented: "We must not kill an innocent person under any circumstances,
there is no moral justification for that. But when it comes to the end of life,
we wouldn’t take a vitalist view, and say somebody has got to be kept alive by
most extraordinary means."
However, a BBC report supported the second interpretation: "Doctors treating
him had said the boy’s life was intolerable and his disability was such that his
life had little purpose.
The parents are considering lodging a complaint with the General Medical
Council and perhaps suing the hospital. ~ Daily
Mail, Mar 22; BBC,
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One thought on “Courts overrule parents in fight to keep baby alive”
While every human being is deserving of dignity and respect, human beings are not entitled to unlimited medical care at public expense. We live in a world of limited resources and that is simply not possible. Obviously there are also some treatments that can prolong life for a short time but can end up causing more harm than good–which is why people sign do not resuscitate orders. But this decision looks like it was driven more by cost of care, not primarily by concern that the child was in pain. So I am skeptical over concerns over the child, when the primary concerns were likely financial.
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