Father gives up fight to keep baby alive

Author: By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor

The father told a judge that he had given his consent after he was sure that every possible medical avenue to help his son had been fully explored. The one-year-old, known as Baby RB for legal reasons, was born with a rare genetic muscle condition that makes independent breathing impossible.

Hospital paediatricians, supported by the boy’s mother, had argued that RB’s illness meant he could expect a “miserable, sad and pitiful existence” ? even if tracheotomy surgery to relieve his breathing difficulties allowed him to leave the hospital. The father had disagreed, favouring an attempt to bring the boy home.

Yesterday Mr Justice McFarlane said that both parents, who were in tears as the judge read out his ruling, now shared the same opinion on the treatment of their child. In his ruling the judge said the choices facing the future care of RB were “stark”. He said: “One [option] is for his time on the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit to end in a planned way, with the administration of a large dose of sedative, the removal of the ventilation tube and his consequent death. The other is to contemplate his discharge from hospital on home ventilation after a tracheotomy.”

The judge welcomed the final decision, describing it as a “sad, but in my view inevitable outcome”. He said: “From the moment of the baby’s birth it was apparent he was profoundly unwell.” Mr Justice McFarlane said it would now be lawful to withdraw life support from the child. He paid tribute to the parents, who had since separated, but who he said had acted in an exemplary manner.

Explaining the difficulties such decisions posed to the court, the judge added: “It is, I suspect, impossible for those of us to whom such an event has not happened to do more than guess at the impact of it upon these two young parents. In one moment all of the hopes and dreams that they will have had for their expected baby will have been dashed and replaced with a life characterised by worry, stress, exhaustion, confusion and no doubt great sadness.”

A statement issued by lawyers representing RB’s parents and the hospital trust said: “Although RB’s parents separated, they have always been united in wanting the best possible care for their son so that he may have the very best possible quality of life. RB’s parents would now wish to spend what little time remains with their beloved son.”

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