UK judge rules parents' comatose baby can be allowed to die


(L-R) Beth and Jane Nicklinson, daughter and wife of Tony Nicklinson who suffers from locked-in syndrome, leave the High Court in Central London on July 19, 2012, after a hearing in Tony Nicklinson's legal bid for the right to end his life when he chooses. Nicklinson wants a doctor to be able lawfully to end his life without fear of prosecution. Nicklinson suffered a catastrophic stroke in 2005, which left him paralysed below the neck and unable to speak. He now communicates by blinking or with limited head movement.


Andrew Cowie

Justice Hedley ruled on July 31 that a critically brain-damaged one year-old baby will be allowed to die if doctors decide to withdraw life support, even though the parents wish to keep their child alive, according to the Telegraph

For the UK, in situations where families and doctors disagree as to whether a patient should be kept alive, judges are sometimes asked to intervene. 

In this case doctors said the child, known as "Baby X," had a "catastrophic accident" and treatment was "futile." The parents, who are both devoutly religious, urged the court to keep their baby alive, the Telegraph reported

Many will agree with the ruling. They may say something about the right to die. Many will disagree with the ruling. They may say something about the right to life.

Here's part of the judge's heartfelt opinion, delivered to the parents and the court: 

“No understanding of life is complete unless it has in it a place for death which comes to each and every human with unfailing inevitability. There is unsurprisingly deep in the human psyche a yearning that, when the end comes, it does so as a 'good death'.

“It is often easier to say what that is not rather than what it is, but in this case the contrast is between a death in the arms and presence of parents and a death wired up to machinery and so isolated from all human contact in the course of futile treatment."

Justice Hedley said he “pondered long and anxiously over this matter all too aware of the gravity of any such decision."

“My last words must be of profound sympathy to [the parents], whose loss and sorrow can I think only be grasped by those who also have passed through the valley of the shadow of death with their own children.”