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Court Refuses Latest Baby Charlotte Appeal
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 11, 2005

PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND--A three-judge panel has ruled that the parents of Charlotte Wyatt cannot appeal a High Court ruling which allows doctors to let the 16-month-old die if she stops breathing.

According to British news services, the Court of Appeal said that Mr. Justice Hedley had considered new evidence about the girl's condition last month when he refused to lift an October 7 order which gave doctors at St. Mary's Children's Hospital permission to refuse a ventilator for her.

Lord Justice Thorpe, the judge who headed the appeals panel, explained that Hedley would be hearing from experts on March 14 on any changes to the baby's condition. Between now and then, Hedley would be available to make any decisions if anything happens to Charlotte, Thorpe said.

When Charlotte was born three months premature on October 21, 2003, she weighed just one ounce and had serious heart and lung problems.

Since her birth, doctors at the hospital have maintained that she is deaf, blind, that she makes no movement on her own and that she feels no sensations except pain. They convinced the court in October 2004 that it would not be in Charlotte's best interest to be kept alive if she stops breathing on her own. They predicted that Charlotte would develop an infection and stop breathing at some point during the winter.

Her parents, Darren and Debbie Wyatt, have argued that doctors did not correctly diagnose their daughter's condition and are condemning her to death. They claim that their daughter is improving, and that she responds to light, sound and cuddling. Their attorney, David Wolfe, told the court that Charlotte is no longer on any sedatives and that she uses an oxygen mask now rather than a large oxygen box, and that she deserves a fighting chance to survive.

"She has defied all those expectations and has lived up to the expectations of her parents, who not only have a profound love for their daughter but also a profound optimism," Wolfe told the appeal judges.

"What Darren and Debbie fear, their nightmare scenario, is emerging evidence in due course will lead to a change in view of the underlying condition but in the meantime, if Charlotte requires ventilation, she would not get it and it is all too late."

Hospital officials have claimed that any signs of improvement in Charlotte's condition have more to do with the medical staff's skill and expertise than the girl's ability to survive.

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

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