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Judge: Doctors Can Still Refuse To Ventilate Baby Charlotte
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 1, 2005

PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND--If 15-month-old Charlotte Wyatt develops an infection and stops breathing in the next few weeks, doctors can decide not to use a ventilator to keep her alive, a judge ruled Friday.

The High Court's Mr. Justice Hedley did grant permission for experts to evaluate Charlotte's condition but refused to suspend his October 7 ruling which gave doctors permission to let the baby die.

According to British media reports, Debbie Wyatt burst into tears and ran from the courtroom when the decision was given.

Charlotte was born three months premature on October 21, 2003. She weighed just one ounce and had serious heart and lung problems.

Doctors at St. Mary's Hospital claim she is deaf, blind, that she makes no movement on her own and that she feels no sensations except pain. They convinced the court that it would not be in Charlotte's best interest to be kept alive if she stops breathing on her own.

The Wyatt's attorney, David Wolfe, told the judge that there had been an improvement in Charlotte's condition since his October 7 ruling. Her parents and one medical expert claimed that the baby responds to light, sound and cuddling. Wolfe told the judge that Charlotte is no longer on any sedatives and that she uses an oxygen mask now rather than a large oxygen box.

Wolfe asked Hedley to lift his order while the independent experts reassess her.

Hedley did allow the investigation to see what her actual improvement has been. He expects a report by the end of March.

The judge said he was pleased to hear reports of her improvements, but said there was no reason to believe her underlying condition had improved or that her brain had grown any in the past few months.

Hospital officials claim that any signs of improvement in the girl's condition have little to do with Charlotte and much to do with the medical staff's skill and expertise.

Charlotte's case underscores a growing disagreement between disability rights groups and medical professionals in the United Kingdom and elsewhere over who should decide whether a person with certain disabilities or medical conditions should live or die.

"Doctors allowed to let baby die" (The Scotsman)


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