Genetics

12 April 2017

Judge allows baby to 'die with dignity' against parents' wishes

A British high court judge ruled that doctors may end life support for a brain damaged baby, despite his parents' hopes for treatment.

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British doctors can allow a baby to "die with dignity" despite his parents' wish to take him to the US for treatment, a high court judge ruled.

Justice Nicholas Francis ruled with the "heaviest of hearts" but "complete conviction" that life support treatment in London for eight-month-old Charlie Gard should be ended.

A scream of 'no'

The baby boy suffers from a rare genetic condition and has brain damage, from which he will not recover according to experts consulted by the court.

The judge's ruling was met with a scream of "no!" and Charlie's parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, wept as the decision was announced.

South Africa's biggest medical organisation, the South African Medical Association (SAMA), in line with Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) does not support the right to die in law, and opposes euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicides, according to a Health24 article. SAMA has cautioned its practitioners that they risk disciplinary action if they help patients die.

Specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where the baby is being treated, had asked the judge to rule that it is legal to withdraw life-support treatment.

Francis had visited baby Charlie in hospital and during the ruling praised staff there for the "extraordinary care" provided to the child and his family.

'Devastated' by court's decision

"Most importantly of all, I want to thank Charlie's parents for their brave and dignified campaign on his behalf, but more than anything to pay tribute to their absolute dedication to their wonderful boy," he said.

The child's parents had hoped to take him to the US where he would undergo a treatment trial for his form of mitochondrial disease.

More than 1.2 million pounds (±R20.6 million) was raised online for the treatment, through more than 80 000 donations.

The family's lawyer Laura Hobey-Hamsher said they were "devastated" by the court's decision and would consider appealing.

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