26 August 2005

Parents of baby Charlotte vow to fight on

Guardian

Staff and agencies
Friday August 26, 2005

The parents of a terminally-ill baby have vowed to fight on despite their latest court defeat to overturn an order allowing doctors not to resuscitate her if she stops breathing.

Darren Wyatt, 33, and his wife, Debbie, 24, who have been told by the hospital treating their 22-month-old daughter Charlotte that she has made "remarkable progress", yesterday failed to persuade the court of appeal to rescind the order.

Doctors at St Mary's hospital in Portsmouth won the legal right last October not to resuscitate Charlotte if she suffered respiratory failure, after arguing that her brain and other organs were so seriously damaged she had "no feeling other than continuing pain".

In April this year, Charlotte's parents failed to have the October judgment overturned, leading to yesterday's proceedings.

After a full day hearing, Lords Justices Laws, Wall and Lloyd rejected the couple's appeal.

But the judges said a review of the case ordered by Mr Justice Hedley should be "accelerated", with a directions hearing next month.

Mr Wyatt vowed to fight on, telling the Daily Mail: "It is quite possible that by the time the legal review comes around Charlotte will be well enough to go home, and the hospital will end up looking very silly. Meanwhile, we have this death sentence hanging over her.

"When the high court made the original ruling last year, they said it would be wrong to resuscitate Charlotte because of her quality of life. But now the doctors accept her quality of life has improved, so why have they not lifted the order?"

Lord Justice Laws yesterday said the court "attached a high importance to the up-to-date position being properly investigated", with a view to a decision on whether the order should "now continue".

Granting the original order in October, Mr Justice Hedley said he did not believe "any further aggressive treatment, even if necessary to prolong her life, is in her best interests". He said Charlotte should be allowed "to meet her end ... in the TLC of those who love her most".

Charlotte weighed only 1lb and measured only 5in long when she was born three months prematurely in October 2003. She has serious brain, lung and kidney damage. She spends most of her time in an oxygen box, but is taken out to be cuddled by her parents when they visit.

Her parents, who describe her as a "fighter", claim she now smiles, reaches out to them and tries to talk.

Earlier, David Lock of Portsmouth NHS trust stressed: "This is not a case about disability. There is no question of not treating Charlotte because she is disabled."

He told the court: "This is a case about the balance between the benefits a treatment will deliver, if any, and the injury, the pain and the downsides of inflicting that treatment."


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