Little Charlotte Wyatt Struggles For Her Life, Again
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 27, 2006
PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND--Once again, Charlotte Wyatt is fighting for her life at a Portsmouth hospital.
As of Monday morning, the two-year-old was reported to be in "serious but stable condition" after contracting what doctors are calling an "aggressive viral condition" that is filling her lungs with fluid.
Anticipating that Charlotte might stop breathing, doctors at the National Health Service's St. Mary's Hospital went to the High Court last Thursday to ask Mr. Justice Hedley to reinstate an order he had lifted last November and to grant them permission to let her die.
Charlotte's mother, Debbie, believes her daughter would survive the virus -- as she has other infections over the past two years -- if doctors were to provide artificial ventilation through a breathing tube.
But Mr. Hedley said Friday that the doctors' update on her condition has convinced him that Charlotte is on a "downward rather than an upward trend".
"Medical evidence speaks with one voice, that ventilation simply will not achieve the end for which no doubt the parents would wish and indeed that Charlotte would be unlikely to survive such a procedure".
Hedley ruled that doctors should "be free to refrain from intervention by way of intubation and resuscitation" and that "a decision to desist would be lawful."
He added that, since his November ruling, "unhappy differences have arisen between Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt, resulting in the temporary separation of the family", thus making it difficult for them to make joint decisions.
Charlotte had been to her parents' home for short visits in December and early January. Her parents, Darren and Debbie, expressed confidence that she would be able to come and live with them once they found a home large enough to accommodate her medical equipment.
Less than a month ago, hospital social workers told reporters of plans to move Charlotte out of the facility and possibly into foster care, but not to her parents because the couple had been having marital problems, and Mr. Wyatt had attempted suicide.
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, Hedley 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 17 months since that ruling, and thrived to the point that Justice Hedley partially reversed his earlier order four months ago. His ruling last Friday reinstated that order, and allows the hospital to let Charlotte die if she stops breathing on her own.
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 or medical conditions.