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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October, 2004, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Viewpoints: Baby ruling
A High Court judge has ruled that a seriously ill premature baby should not be revived if she stops breathing.

Charlotte Wyatt weighed just one pound when she was born 11 months ago and has serious heart and lung problems.

We asked six commentators for their views on the decision.

Michael Wilks, BMA ethics committee chairman

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain

Ruth Evans, of the General Medical Council

Mencap chief executive Jo Williams

The Most Rev Peter Smith, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff

Rob Williams, chief executive of the premature baby charity Bliss

Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA's ethics committee

This case has been incredibly difficult and emotional for everyone concerned.

It is unusual for doctors and parents not to agree about whether or not to resuscitate a very seriously ill baby but when no consensus can be reached the only way forward is for the case to go to court.

The BMA is confident that Mr Justice Hedley, after having heard all relevant information, has made the right decision in the best interests of Charlotte Wyatt.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, spokesman for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain

We welcome the judge's verdict. Jewish medical ethics regards the saving of human life to be of supreme religious value but also recognises limits.

Where a baby has no hope of survival, with her vital organs deteriorating and she is experiencing constant pain, there is no justification in keeping that child alive artificially.

The parents should act as guardians of the child's best interests - which in this case means letting go rather than holding onto her as long as possible.

Despite the grief they must feel, they should not ask doctors to artificially prolong a life that is drawing to an end. Letting go can sometimes be the best religious response.

Ruth Evans, head of standards at the General Medical Council

Our thoughts are with the parents. It is a terrible, terrible day for them.

This case gives a really helpful insight to all those concerned in the public and the professions.

It shows the real dilemmas that are faced at the coalface.

It is a very difficult situation. It is highly emotionally distressing for the parents, and it involves very serious clinical decisions by the team.

I hope it is going to enhance an understanding of what it is like in the clinical setting when such decisions have to be made.

Partnership is the absolute key here, and increasingly we are confident that doctors are able to forge partnerships with parents and patients to ensure that the right clinical decisions are made on behalf of the baby in this case, or patients in general.

Mencap chief executive Jo Williams

I am disappointed with the ruling.

Doctors should not make assumptions about the quality of life of disabled children.

Parents of extremely premature babies who are born with disabilities should always be fully involved in decisions about whether they want their child to be resuscitated.

These difficult decisions for doctors and parents of very fragile children must properly take account of the value of the child's life and whether prolonging it would lead to intolerable pain.

We need to meet this growing number of premature babies with positive, practical solutions and we should never lose sight of the fact that it is society's obligation that all of its offspring should be nurtured, regardless of their vulnerability.

The Most Rev Peter Smith, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff and chairman of the department of Christian responsibility and citizenship of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales

No-one can doubt the good faith of everyone involved in this agonising case.

The desire of loving parents to ensure everything is done to save their daughter Charlotte can only be admired, and yet we have also to acknowledge and respect the professional judgments of the medical team about the likely consequences of different courses of action.

To discern the best course of action in these extremely difficult circumstances is never easy and I feel enormous sympathy for those who have to make the final judgment.

Rob Williams, chief executive of the premature baby charity Bliss

It has been a tragic case. The situation is very difficult.

It is a very sad day for everyone involved, and there are no real winners from the case.

Every individual baby should get as much chance as possible to survive and thrive, but there will be cases such as Charlotte's where it just does not work, and despite best efforts you will be confronted with a truly awful decision.

The case has provided a little window on the world of the neonatal and paediatric intensive care ward, where life and death decisions and discussions happen every day. In that sense it has been a useful thing for the public to get to know what kind of issues go on.

But in general it is better that doctors and parents reach these kind of decisions in a relaxed, informal atmosphere treating everyone with respect, and not rushing anyone to judgement.

Premature baby ruling: Your reaction
07 Oct 04 |  Have Your Say
Q&A: The Charlotte Wyatt case
07 Oct 04 |  Health

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