British Parents Battle at High Court Over Disabled Boy, May be Denied Treatment

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 3, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Parents Battle at High Court Over Disabled Boy, May be Denied Treatment

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 3
, 2009

London, England ( — Parents in Britain are battling at the nation’s high court in the case of Baby RB, a disabled boy whose father is opposing attempts by a hospital trust to deny him life-sustaining treatment. The trust argues that Baby RB’s quality of life is so low due to congenital myasthenic syndrome (CMS) that it is not in his best interests to stay alive.

The mother in the case is defending her decision in court to supporting the doctors’ recommendation to terminate the one-year-old baby’s life support.

The boy has CMS, a condition that severely limits limb movement and the ability to breathe independently and he has been hospitalized since birth. His father, who is separated from the boy’s mother, opposes taking his life by removing the life support.

The hospital trust which provides his care has taken the case to the High Court and, if the lawsuit is successful, it could be the first in which a hospital is allowed to remove life support over a parent’s objections for someone who is not brain damaged.

"RB’s mother has sat by her son’s bedside every day since he was born," her attorney, Anthony Fairweather, said, according to Fox News. "In her mind the intolerable suffering experienced by her son must outweigh her own personal grief should she lose her child."

The baby’s father and his attorneys argue the child’s brain is unaffected by the condition and that he can see, hear, feel and recognize his parents. He argues a tracheotomy, where a hole is made in the neck to allow air to reach his lungs, would allow his son to leave hospital and be cared for at home.

They plan to submit video footage showing RB playing with toys, enjoying and listening to music and interacting with his parents.

"The father feels very strongly that Baby RB has a quality of life that demands the trust should continue to provide life-sustaining treatment," attorney Christopher Cuddihee said, according to Sky News. "The father clearly adores his son and hopes to demonstrate to the court that the trust’s application should be rejected."

Pro-life advocates in England support the father.

Anthony Ozimic of SPUC Pro-Life commented: "Whenever there is doubt about life-sustaining medical treatment, everyone should act with a presumption in favor of life."

Janet Thomas of No Less Human, added, "The fact that an individual’s life would necessarily be short does not justify our deliberately killing him."

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