Charlotte Wyatt Could Be Released To Foster Family, Not Parents
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 10, 2006
PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND--Charlotte Wyatt could be allowed to leave St. Mary's hospital next month.
But, probably not with her parents, hospital officials said this week.
After more than two years of battling the hospital to keep Charlotte from dying if she were to stop breathing, and several months of battling for the right to bring her home to live with them, Darren and Debbie Wyatt are dealing with their own relationship problems. Those problems may make it unlikely for Charlotte to be discharged into their care.
On February 3, paramedics rushed Mr. Wyatt, 34, to the emergency room at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth after an apparent drug overdose.
One day earlier, Mrs. Wyatt, 24, moved from the couple's home with their three other children -- Daniel, three, David, one, and two-month-old Christina.
According to The Sun, the couple has been having relationships troubles as this was the second time in recent weeks that Mrs. Wyatt had left their home.
One hospital manager told The Times that they could not allow Charlotte to go with the her parents "given the family situation at the moment."
Officials are reportedly considering foster care alternatives.
The couple had hoped to bring two-year-old Charlotte home to live with them, following two successful visits in December, one of those being on Christmas Day. The Wyatts, who are both unemployed, have been on a waiting list for a larger residence, believing that having more bedrooms and space for Charlotte's medical equipment would help them bring her home to stay this spring.
From the time Charlotte was born three months premature on October 21, 2003, doctors at the NHS hospital insisted that she had serious heart and lung problems, was deaf and blind, made no movement on her own and felt no sensations except constant pain. They predicted in October 2004 that she would develop a lung infection during that winter and would stop breathing. At the time, the High Court agreed with the hospital that Charlotte's quality of life was "intolerable" and that it would be in her best interest to leave her to die if her breathing stopped.
Charlotte's parents resolved to fight to help their daughter stay alive. She has survived more than 16 months since that ruling, and has thrived to the point that three months ago the court partially reversed its earlier order.
Charlotte's situation highlights a growing controversy in the United Kingdom between some members of the medical community, family members and disability rights groups over who should make decisions regarding the lives of people with certain disabilities.
A prominent Newcastle University professor used the Wyatts' situation to suggest that the stress they are experiencing could be attributed to their daughter's condition, and questioned the value of keeping premature babies alive in light of their disabilities.
"For a child in this situation, the issue is not just keeping them alive for the first years of life. The child may go on to live for many years," Sir Alan Craft, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told The Times.
"There is a burden on the family and the other siblings. The stress can lead to marital break-up. Profoundly handicapped children can be an enormous social and financial burden."
Craft went on to suggest that the Netherlands has fewer children with "profound" disabilities, because Dutch doctors do nothing to help babies under 26 weeks of gestation to survive.
"Baby Charlotte faces foster care as parents separate" (The Times)