Judge orders withdrawal of life support from baby born in car during hailstorm
A baby who suffered brain damage after being starved of oxygen when born in a car during a hailstorm should no longer receive life support treatment, a High Court judge has decided.
The little girl's parents wanted treatment to continue but Mr Justice Peter Jackson has ruled against them after a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in Manchester.
He said the only benefit the little girl - who was born in January - would get from continued treatment was the "prolongation of her life by intensive medical intervention".
The judge said, in a written ruling, that the little girl had been in an intensive care unit all her life.
He said she had no quality of life, no "future to look forward to" and could experience "none of the joys of life".
Mr Justice Jackson said the "likely consequence of his decision" was that the little girl would soon die.
He said no-one involved could be identified.
The judge named the girl only as "Chloe" in the ruling.
He said she was being treated in a specialist unit run by the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.
Trust bosses had asked for an order authorising the withdrawal of respiratory support.
"Chloe is her parents' only child," said Mr Justice Jackson in the ruling.
" After an uncomplicated pregnancy, her mother went into labour at home on 28 January.
"Her parents set out to drive to hospital.
"It was an icy road and there was a hailstorm.
"Chloe was born in the car on the journey.
"When she arrived at hospital, she was in a critical condition with no spontaneous breathing or cardiac activity.
"She was resuscitated and her heart began to beat.
"The next day, she was transferred to (a) neonatal intensive care unit."
He said doctors had concluded that she had suffered brain damage as a result of a lack of oxygen at birth.
"Chloe has remained in intensive care all her life, receiving continuous medical support at the highest level," said the judge
"For some considerable time, the doctors treating her have been concerned that this treatment is not in her best interests.
"After many discussions with the parents, who wish for treatment to continue and for Chloe to be moved to another hospital, the trust began these proceedings."
Mr Justice Jackson said he was in "no doubt" that the trust's application should be granted.
"The benefits to Chloe of continued treatment consist only in the prolongation of her life by intensive medical intervention," said the judge.
"The burdens, which only she has to bear, are considerable.
"She has no quality of life beyond remission from pain and distress.
"Even if she survives, she has no future to look forward to.
"She can experience none of the joys of life, but at best a continuous series of medical interventions."
He added: "The likely consequence of this decision is that Chloe will soon die. Given her sad experience of life, I hope that she will have a peaceful death."
The judge expressed his sympathy to Chloe's parents and his appreciation for the "dedicated professionalism" of medics.
Mr Justice Jackson said Chloe's parents visited her twice a week.
Her mother was said to show affection - talking to her and stroking her, said the judge. Her father was said to be "more distant".
The judge said the little girl's parents did not "engage" with the medical staff.
He said they had not taken part in the High Court proceedings.
"The clinical team regularly attempts to contact the parents by telephone to keep them informed of progress. These calls are very rarely answered. The father has refused to provide the hospital with a postal address," said the judge.
"In a sad case of this kind, the court always listens with the utmost care to the views of the child's parents. Very unfortunately, Chloe's parents have not participated in these proceedings. They have not meaningfully engaged with the representatives of the trust."
He added: "As a result, my only knowledge of the parents' position comes from records of discussions between them and the doctors and from a few emails written by the father, who has throughout acted as spokesman for the parents, thereby making it difficult to gauge the independent feelings of the mother.
"Having considered such information as I have from the parents, it unfortunately does not illuminate what is in Chloe's best interests.
"The father is exceptionally hostile to the treating team, expressing himself in the most vitriolic terms about the care she has been given, the doctors and nurses, the hospital, and the political system generally.
"In cases of this kind, the court is familiar with disagreement or even mistrust between doctors and parents, but the level of antagonism expressed by this father towards those treating his daughter is beyond my experience."
Mr Justice Jackson said the little girl had been made the subject of a child protection plan by council social services officials.
He said it was "uncertain" whether she would, in any event, have been discharged from hospital into the care of her parents.
And he indicated that the approach taken by the little girl's parents had implications.
"The parents are of course free to express their beliefs. However, they risk depriving Chloe of options that exist where there is a working relationship," he added.
"In particular, it would not be possible for Chloe to be discharged to a hospice without agreement and close cooperation between the parents, doctors and hospice."