Father drops objection to switching off baby's life support

The father of tragic “right to life” baby RB today withdrew his opposition to a British High Court plea by doctors and the little boy’s mother for permission to switch off his life support.

The father of tragic “right to life” baby RB today withdrew his opposition to a British High Court plea by doctors and the little boy’s mother for permission to switch off his life support.

The decision came on the seventh day of an emotionally-charged Family Court hearing in which a judge faced the formidable task of deciding whether chronically disabled one-year-old RB should be allowed to live or die in peace after withdrawal of his ventilation.

Lawyers for the health authority caring for the baby in intensive care told Mr Justice McFarlane: “All of the parties in court now agree that it would be in R’s best interests for the course suggested by the doctors to be followed.”

Declaring that such a course, with palliative care, would be lawful, the judge paid tribute to the young estranged parents who had been “exemplary” in attending to their son at his hospital bedside every day during his short life.

The judge said it was a "sad but in my view inevitable outcome''.

It was the “only tenable one for RB”.

As the judge summarised the tragic case, both parents wept and the mother at one point left the court in tears but returned to hear his tribute to them and the doctors and nurses caring for their son.

The hospital authority had sought a court order allowing RB to die with dignity rather than continuing to live what doctors described as a “miserable and pitiful” existence.

The father initially opposed the application, arguing his son showed signs of “purposeful” movement when presented with toys and should have the chance to live, even though chronically disabled.

Baby RB was born in October last year with what is thought to be congenital myasthenic syndrome (CMS), a rare neuromuscular condition which severely limits the ability to breathe and move limbs.

Expert medical witnesses described him as having a normal brain locked inside an immobile and “non-communicative” body.

Their principle concern was that he was unable to show, by facial expression or bodily movement, when he was in pain during the stressful treatment he had to undergo, including regular “suctioning” of his airways to remove fluid.

The court heard from counsel that it was a decision the father, KM, had come to "after a very great deal of thought after hearing all the evidence as it has developed in this case''.

After being told that all the parties were now in agreement about the course to be taken, the judge said: “It is appropriate for me to say one or two words, not in judgment, but in endorsement of this sad but, in my view, inevitable outcome.”

He said: “It is, I suspect, impossible for those of us to whom such an event has not happened to do more than guess at the impact of it upon these two young parents.

“In one moment all of the hopes and dreams that they will have had for their expected baby will have been dashed and replaced with a life characterised by worry, stress, exhaustion, confusion and no doubt great sadness.”

He said: “During the past 13 months both KM and AB have discharged their responsibility to their son in a manner which has been described by all who have seen it in superlative terms.”

The judge went on: “It is a fact that K and A have spent the most part of each and every day of the last 13 months at RB’s bedside, doing what they can to care for him and, when the opportunity arises, to interest and stimulate him, seizing upon any sign of a spark and trying to develop it into something more.

“They have put their own adult lives on hold. The stress has been immense, it has cost them their relationship, but still they work together and do what they can to support their son.

“When faced with the awfulness of the situation in which they found themselves, these two young people have stepped up to the plate and discharged the responsibility that life had thrust upon them by each showing 100% commitment to their child in a manner which can only command profound respect and admiration.”

In a joint statement issued by the lawyers involved in the case, RB’s father was now said to be “satisfied that the benefits of further medical treatment are sadly no longer in RB’s bests interests”, adding: “This has been an agonisingly difficult decision.”

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