A British couple have won a reprieve for their severely handicapped son after his hospital asked to let him die because of his poor quality of life. The parents of the 19-month-old child known only as “MB”, thanked the judge for his decision.
MB has a condition called spinal muscular atrophy which leaves him almost totally paralysed. He requires a ventilator to breathe and cannot cry, chew or swallow. All his doctors and the guardian appointed to represent the child’s interest in court argued that the burdens of his existence outweighed the benefits.
However, MB’s mother told the High Court, in London, that the child was conscious. He responded to cartoon films such as Shrek and Finding Nemo, but did not appear to like the news or the TV soap Eastenders. “It must be assumed that he processes all of those sights and sounds like any child of his age and gains pleasure from them,” said Justice Holman. “No court has yet been asked to approve, against the will of parents, the withdrawal of life support with the inevitable and immediate death of a conscious child with sensory awareness and cognition, and no significant evidence of brain damage.”
However, the judge also set down that if the child’s heart stops, the hospital would not be required to resuscitate him or to give antibiotics if he develops serious infections.
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