Two families have failed in legal battles to have British doctors keep their loved ones alive at all costs in public hospitals. In the first, the parents of a brain-damaged baby failed to overturn a court decision that she should not be resuscitated if she stops breathing. Twenty-two month-old Charlotte Wyatt is badly handicapped, with severe lung, brain and kidney damage, and is on life support in a hospital in Portsmouth. A judge has ruled that aggressive treatment to prolong her life is not in her best interest. However, her parents want her kept alive and claim that she has made remarkable progress. The case is due to be heard again by the Court of Appeal.
And a Muslim family has lost an appeal to the High Court to keep their seriously ill father alive. Mr A, a 86-year-old Pakistani who fought for Britain in World War II, had a heart attack in July and deteriorated rapidly thereafter. National Health Service doctors say that he is dying and that aggressive life support is painful and undignified. They want to give him nutrition and hydration, but nothing else.
His family dispute this prognosis and cite the opinion of a doctor who says that he is improving and could live at home provided he survives his current crisis. They have asked the courts to block the decision on the grounds that their religious beliefs require doctors to do everything in their power to keep him alive. After hearing arguments from both parties, Mr Justice Kirkwood, of the High Court, said that “it is in [Mr A’s] best interests to be allowed a peaceful and dignified death”.
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