LONDON — A judge in the United Kingdom has ruled that doctors may turn off the life support of an 11-month-old baby who suffered brain damage at birth, even though the child’s parents would like to give their son care no matter his condition. They say that it is hospital staff who negligently caused him harm, and that he would be home if not for the mistake.
“Examining Isaiah’s best interests from a broad perspective … I am satisfied that it is not in his best interests for life-sustaining medical treatment to be continued,” concluded Justice Alistair MacDonald on Monday. “That, with profound sadness, is my judgment.”
“I am satisfied on the evidence before the court that Isaiah has no prospect of recovery or improvement given the severe nature of the cerebral atrophy in his brain.”
As previously reported, doctors at King’s College Hospital had told MacDonald earlier this month that it is “futile, burdensome and not in [the child’s] best interests” to continue treatment. According to the Times & Star, they stated that the infant, named Isaiah, has a low level of consciousness, does not respond to stimulation and cannot breathe on his own.
“[He has] no smile, no perceived movement, no way that anyone can tell whether he is expressing any emotional connection,” one specialist testified to Justice Alistair MacDonald. “There is definitely an emotional connection from mother to baby, but whether there is an emotional connection from Isaiah to mother, I don’t know how you would ever be able to establish that.”
But the child’s mother Takesha Thomas, 36, while acknowledging that her son is significantly disabled, testified that the child is responsive to her touch and voice.
“When I take him out for cuddles, when I sing to him, when I rock, he feels sleepy in my arms,” she told the court. “When I speak to him, he will respond slowly by opening one eye.”
Thomas asked that her son be given a chance, advising that she would be willing to care for him around the clock at home.
“Don’t just give up on him and say it’s a hopeless case, because many children have been born in Isaiah’s similar case and their parents didn’t give up on them either,” she told Sky News. “And with love, that’s one thing I know: give a child love and they will thrive. It doesn’t matter what condition they are, just give them love. And that’s what everyone needs.”
Thomas, who identifies as Pentecostal, further said that it is not up to man to say that a person’s life is so “poor” that it is not worth living.
“For me, I don’t think it is right to say who should live or who should die,” she remarked. “If God wants to take the person, He will.”
However, MacDonald concluded that while he understood Thomas’ heart, “it is no longer in Isaiah’s best interest to receive life-sustaining treatment” as he would likely be ventilator dependent and would remain unaware of his surroundings.
“It is trite but true to observe that the court cannot imagine the emotional pain that the conclusion of the court will cause to the parents,” he stated. “It is my hope that, in due course, the parents will be able to derive some small measure of comfort from the knowledge that they have done all that they can for their much-loved and cherished son to seek an alternative outcome for Isaiah.”
According to The Guardian, father Lanre Haastrup, also 36, had testified in court that he believed his son was harmed by hospital staff during birth as he was deprived of oxygen, which resulted in the brain damage. He said that a negligence case is underway against King’s College Hospital. It is unclear exactly how Isaiah was deprived of oxygen during the delivery.
“This is a case involving a child that the applicant harmed at birth,” Haastrup said. “But for them, Isaiah would be at home having a lovely meal with me, with his lovely mum, playing around.”