Parents lose court battle over future of gravely ill child

A high court in the UK has ruled that doctors treating a seriously ill two-year-old girl can let her die naturally.

Charlotte Wyatt's condition has worsened as she battles an aggressive viral infection which is clogging up her lungs.

The ruling follows a series of legal battles fought by Charlotte's parents over the treatment of the severely disabled Portsmouth toddler.

The Wyatts have been fighting to prevent doctors withdrawing treatment from their sick daughter, who has already spent most of her short life in hospital.

Charlotte was born three months premature and weighed just one pound and measured five inches; she has serious brain, lung and kidney damage.

Her parents believe Charlotte could still recover with help.

However Judge Mr Justice Hedley, following an emergency application from St Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth, has ruled that Charlotte was on a "downward rather than upward trend" and there had been a "very significant deterioration" in her condition".

He says the doctor treating Charlotte at St Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth took the view that intubation -- artificial breathing -- would not be in her best interests.

He also heard that Charlotte's mother, Debbie, believed the child could recover if doctors helped her breathe by inserting a tube in her windpipe.

Judge Hedley says the hospital will continue providing breathing treatment through a mask for Charlotte and she would continue to be given all life-saving treatment short of intubation and ventilation.

He says he is now satisfied it is in the best interests of Charlotte for doctors to be "free to refrain from intervention by way of intubation and ventilation".

He says the medical authorities are required to use their best judgement in Charlotte's best interests as to whether they desist and a decision to desist would be lawful.

It was just last October that Justice Hedley ruled in favour of Charlotte's parents, saying doctors should resuscitate her if they thought it would be successful and in her best interests.

But in his current judgment he says that medical evidence is united in the view that ventilation simply will not achieve the end for which no doubt the parents would wish and indeed that Charlotte would be unlikely to survive such a procedure.

He believes Charlotte's parents should reach agreement with the doctors about their daughter's treatment if a crisis arose.

It seems Charlotte's condition had improved significantly in recent months and staff at the hospital, where she has remained since she was born,were optimistic she may be able at some point to go home permanently.

Charlotte was allowed home for the first time unsupervised on Christmas Day, 2005.

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