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Last Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Ruling lifted on baby Charlotte
Charlotte Wyatt

The parents of a brain-damaged baby have won a partial victory in their legal battle to have her resuscitated by doctors if she falls seriously ill.

A judge has lifted the order not to ventilate Charlotte Wyatt, but said doctors still had the final decision on taking action which would end her life.

However, he added the Wyatts must be consulted before any such decision would be taken.

The High Court decision falls on Charlotte's second birthday.

Charlotte has serious brain, lung and kidney damage.

Darren and Debbie Wyatt, from Portsmouth, said they were "very happy that the order which has been hanging over Charlotte for over a year now has been lifted".

This is the best birthday present for Charlotte. She can get on with her life now
Darren Wyatt

Outlining his decision the judge said the doctors should rely on their conscience, which does not mean they have to take orders from the family, but just consider their wishes within their professional conscience.

Lifting the order, Mr Justice Hedley said he did not expect to have to make any further rulings on baby Charlotte.

"I hope that the trust and confidence of which both Dr K (Charlotte's consultant who cannot be named for legal reasons) and the parents spoke can now develop with a view to securing the best for Charlotte, whether in life or death," he added.

Speaking outside the court, Darren Wyatt, 33, said: "This is the best birthday present for Charlotte. She can get on with her life now.

"We haven't got this big black cloud hanging over us now."

Still concerned

He went on to say he did not feel there would be any further disagreements with the medical team treating Charlotte.

However, Mr and Mrs Wyatt's solicitor Richard Stein said he was concerned that doctors could still choose not to ventilate Charlotte.

But he added: "I'm optimistic, now that they are being allowed to get on with the normal doctor-patient-family set of relationships that the answers will be worked out in Portsmouth, as and when they need to be obtained."

Reading a statement outside the court, Pat Forsyth, a spokeswoman for St Mary's hospital, said the judgement was very clear.

"Doctors are not required to act against Charlotte's best interests. In practice, this means that the paediatricians will continue to work with the parents and hopefully agree treatment for Charlotte at all stages.

"However, if there is a future disagreement we have a very clear direction from the court that the doctors are not required to ventilate Charlotte when it is not in her best interests to do so."

'Collapse' concerns

The Wyatts had asked the judge to discharge the declaration he made last year which meant that doctors would not be acting unlawfully if they decided it was not in Charlotte's best interests to artificially ventilate her in a life-threatening situation.

At a two-day review of the case last week, a consultant treating Charlotte told the High Court "she isn't suffering in any way".

But the medic, referred to as Dr K, said he was "concerned" about treatment if she suffered a "major collapse".

Charlotte, who has never left hospital, was born three months prematurely in October 2003, was five inches long and weighed only 1lb (0.45kg).

Despite a gloomy prognosis last year, Charlotte has survived against the odds and medical opinion.

According to her parents, Charlotte now smiles, reaches out to them and tries to talk.

What is your reaction to this decision?

Your comments:

This is probably the right decision and this should also be the first and last challenge on this case. If Charlotte has severe brain damage, cannot recognise her parents and cannot exist without tubes, chemicals or machinery, then the parents must put first the needs of their beloved daughter and ask themselves what quality of existence she will have. The doctors and no one else (real or imagined) are best placed to make the right decision and will.
Simon Chenery, Bournemouth, UK

I am glad that Charlotte and her parents are still fighting on, and what is the harm in keeping Charlotte alive if she is suffering no pain? You only ever have one shot at life, and although it is hard, I urge every one to hold their heads high and keep a clear mind, open to opinions. I wish the best of luck to Charlotte in the future.
Laura, Essex

I think the parents/immediate family are the sole arbiters in this case, or in any other such case where the patient herself is not in a position to decide. As for the doctors, so long as the family is paying for the treatment, they are obliged to treat. Of course, they should work with the family and try to make them see it from the medical perspective, but the ultimate decision rests with the family. At any rate, such cases should definitely not be decided in a court of law. Anyone who is born has the right to live and absolutely no one other than that person (or those who stand for her) has the right to decide otherwise. The question "does Charlotte have quality life?" should be rephrased to "who decides?" to put the issue in a clear light. I am not anti-euthanasia. Rather, I am saying the right to decide rests solely with the patient or her family.
Monideepa Talukdar, USA

The fact of the matter is that she will never fully recover. If she does eventually get out of hospital what kind of life will she lead? Her parents are prolonging her and their own suffering.
Alina, Glasgow, Scotland

As a parent your heart aches, having children is one of life's greatest treasures. Loving and supporting your children has reward beyond any measure. But an alternative view needs to be reflected in these comments. Health care carries huge costs and can a society continue to fund the cost of an unsustainable life? Let's hope that this is not at the expense of other lives. When the time comes to let a life go, then we must let that life go.
Craig, Waterloo, Canada

May everyone leave this loving family in peace to enjoy every minute they can with their precious daughter. As someone working in the special needs education sector, I work with children everyday that have complex needs and doctors said "they shouldn't be here now". But they are strong and god brought their life, parents nurture it, for however long we all have here and God will decide when he will take the angels back
Marie, UK

It's really hard to say it, but there's no sense in having Charlotte resuscitated. What kind of future can this baby expect? Will all the people supporting her to be kept alive take care of her on her daily life and help the parents? If she cannot be given a decent life, why extending her suffering? Do we want her to become the next Terry Schiavo?
Xavi, Barcelona, Spain

As a mother myself my heart goes out to this family. However I can't help feeling that the young couple are prolonging their agony and that of their daughter's by wanting their daughter to be resuscitated when she falls seriously ill. As she is already seriously ill that can only mean when she falls into a final coma. I think judge Hedley made a wise decision. I hope that baby Charlotte is able to enjoy whatever time she has left, but when the end comes I hope the doctors will be able to make the right decision as their professional conscience dictates.
Jasmine Castle, Austin, Texas

I think that Justice Hedley's character as a judge and human being shines through in his decision. Any question of whether Charlotte should be resuscitated, should be decided between her parents and her doctors, whom the parents must have confidence in. This should never have been a question for the courts to decide.
Lisa Richmond, Orange, California, USA

The doctors should let nature take care the situation, they should do their best to save her but let God be the final judge.
Linda, UK

This is a very tough ethical decision, while Charlotte's quality of life will be much less than that of an average human being, the blatant love and care that Charlotte receives from her immediate family is obviously very strong. I would hate to be the judge making the ruling, but I think Hedley has made a sensible and loving decision. I agree entirely and hope Charlotte will be with us for years to came as she is obviously a very strong character.
Charlotte Joyce, Boston, England

I believe it is God who gave life He should be the one to take it away. Charlotte has come a long way. Let both parents continue to enjoy whatever time they have with her in the end whatever the outcome they will give God thanks for the time He has lent her to them.
Audrey Ridge, Saint Catherine, Jamaica

Surely all living things deserve the best possible chance at life. If Charlotte is not suffering in any way why should she not have that chance?
Neil, Surrey

See how Charlotte has progressed

Judge delays baby Charlotte order
14 Oct 05 |  Hampshire
Baby Charlotte 'is not suffering'
13 Oct 05 |  Hampshire
Parents lose right-to-life appeal
25 Aug 05 |  Hampshire
Baby joy for Charlotte's parents
22 Apr 05 |  Hampshire
Baby 'should be allowed to die'
21 Apr 05 |  Hampshire

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