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Judge Gives Doctors More Leeway In Baby Charlotte's Treatment
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 17, 2004

PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND--The High Court's Mr. Justice Hedley ruled Friday that doctors at St. Mary's Hospital could use more of their own discretion in varying the use of drugs and medical care they give to 14-month-old Charlotte Wyatt.

Doctors believe the girl, who was born three months premature in October 2003, is blind, deaf, and unaware of her surroundings. They have little hope for her to have a good "quality of life". They claim that she is in constant pain, and that she will likely die of a lung infection sometime this winter. Doctors at the hospital requested permission to refuse to keep her alive if her condition deteriorates.

In October of this year, Hedley sided with the hospital. He said that the doctors would not have to take "aggressive measures", including using a ventilator, if Charlotte stops breathing.

Charlotte's parents Darren and Debbie disagree. They claim that she cuddles, smiles, sees and responds to them. They have been in an ongoing battle to keep their daughter alive. Last month they told police that the doctors were giving their daughter too much morphine to bring about her death more quickly.

The Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust went back to court Friday because of the dispute with Charlotte's parents over her treatment.

Justice Hedley ruled that hospital staff and doctors must work in Charlotte's best interest if there is an emergency, and must use their best efforts to get her parents' consent before making any changes to her treatment.

Hedley said that a hearing will be scheduled for January 28 if the parents and hospital cannot work together.

"My immediate task is to make some provision in the meantime, in particular over the holiday period, so that the welfare of Charlotte is not imperiled and the work of the treating clinicians is not seriously impaired."

The Trust now requires a security guard to be present whenever Mr. Wyatt visits his daughter's ward to protect hospital staff. Mr. Wyatt's parents called that requirement "humiliating for him" and the doctors "heartless".

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

"Dad's dying baby anguish" (The Evening Mail)

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