Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Saturday, 21 March 2009

When life and death involves the law

A nine-month-old baby who was being kept alive on a ventilator has died after High Court judges ruled his treatment should be withdrawn.

The boy, known as "Baby OT", had a rare metabolic disorder, brain damage and respiratory failure. He was unable to breathe by himself and died on Saturday at 1008 GMT.

There have been relatively few similar cases where family members or an NHS Trust have gone to court over the so-called right-to-life issue.

Amber Hartland and her mother Lesley
Lesley Hartland had argued that her daughter had a 'right to life'

In November 2008 a six-year-old girl from Wales, Amber Hartland died before her parents could take her case to court.

Amber, from Cwmbran, Torfaen, suffered from the incurable brain disorder Infantile Tay-Sachs, which left her almost completely paralysed.

Doctors had told her parents she would not be admitted to intensive care again and a judge would have to decide on her future care.


In the case of Leslie Burke the European Court of Human Rights refused to reverse a UK ruling which allows doctors to decide a patient's treatment.

The 45-year-old, who has an incurable brain condition, feared he would be denied food and drink to keep him alive when his illness makes him unable to speak.

The European court said it did not accept there was a "real and imminent" threat that artificial nutrition and hydration would be withdrawn in the final stages of his illness.

Image of Mahdi
Mahdi's mother Eleanor fought to keep his ventilator turned on

Judges ruled 19-month-old Mahdi Bacheikh, could be kept alive despite doctors telling a hearing his quality of life was so poor he should be allowed to die.

Medics argued the ventilation which was keeping him alive was likely to be "uncomfortable" with one saying he felt the child had an "intolerable life".

Mahdi, then known as Baby MB, could not breathe unaided, swallow or chew but he did not suffer from brain damage. The judge said he was not unconscious and was capable of bonding with his family.

He died in December 2006, aged two.


A judge ruled doctors would not have to resuscitate toddler Charlotte Wyatt who was born prematurely with severe brain and lung damage and has spent most of her life at St Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth.

The ruling followed a series of legal battles over the severely disabled toddler's care.

In October 2005 her parents won a partial victory when a judge lifted an order saying doctors would not be acting unlawfully if they decided not to give Charlotte artificial ventilation in a life-threatening situation.

But the most recent order was made in an emergency hearing after her condition deteriorated.


The family of Eileen Doran took her case to the High Court after doctors said they would not resuscitate the 31-year-old if she stopped breathing.

A judge ruled there were "no advantages" to prolonging survival and said Ms Doran should be allowed "as dignified a passing as possible".

She was being treated at the Walton Neurological Centre in Liverpool for incurable brain disease mitochondria cytopathy and died later the same month.


Luke Winston-Jones, who had the rare genetic disorder Edwards Syndrome, died aged 10 months in Liverpool's Alder Hey children's hospital in November 2004.

His mother, Ruth Winston-Jones, had taken his case to the High Court. The judge, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the High Court Family Division, ruled he should not be resuscitated by mechanical ventilation.

But after a last-minute concession by the hospitals, it was ordered that he would still have the chance to receive cardiac massage.

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