LONDON — The parents of an infant boy in the U.K. are mourning the loss of their son after he died at the end of a harrowing legal battle on Wednesday.
Isaiah Haastrup’s life support was removed Wednesday afternoon after an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights was denied. The 12-month-old breathed on his own for seven hours before he died, which his parents opined was proof that the child could have been weaned from the ventilator and didn’t have to die.
“The corrupt doctors told the court he could not live beyond few minutes without ventilator, which formed the basis of the court judgment. Evidently, nothing could be further from the truth,” wrote father Lanre Haastrup on social media. “Our view that he could be weaned off the ventilator did not matter, only the doctors’ [opinion]. Isaiah proved the doctors wrong and his parents right.”
As previously reported, baby Isaiah suffered brain damage at birth as he was deprived of oxygen due to a 45-minute delay in a Cesarean section after his mother’s uterus ruptured during labor and she lost a significant amount of blood. The infant, who reportedly was found in his mother’s abdominal cavity at the time the Cesarean was finally performed, had no heartbeat and was not breathing when he was removed from the womb, and had to be resuscitated.
His parents fault King’s College Hospital in London for his injury.
As the months passed, and as doctors believed that life support should be discontinued, Isaiah’s parents took the matter to court. Doctors at King’s College Hospital testified in January 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 had a low level of consciousness, did not respond to stimulation and could not 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, contended that the child was 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. She also said that it should be up to God, not man, to decide when her son’s life ends.
“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,” Thomas 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.”
Haastrup wanted his son to obtain alternative treatments.
“If the treatment would assist Isaiah and is available and affordable, why rush to end his life when these treatments are available to other children?” he asked. “Once a life is taken no one can give it back. … I’m inviting you to temper justice with mercy.”
However, Justice MacDonald concluded that while he understood the parents’ heart, “it is no longer in Isaiah’s best interest to receive life-sustaining treatment” as he would likely be ventilator dependent and would be severely disabled.
“Isaiah’s life is sustained mechanically and without mechanical ventilation he will die. The burden on Isaiah of that irreversible position is a grave one. If kept alive, he will continue to suffer from profound cognitive impairment, extremely severe global motor disability with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. That situation will not change,” he wrote.
“Tragically, Isaiah’s profound and irreversible brain injury means that now, and in the future, he will not be able to enjoy any the fundamental benefits that life brings, including but not limited to the experiences of love, human connection to family and friends, development of a sense of identity and belonging and learning about and exploring the world,” MacDonald continued.
“By contrast, to continue to be subject to life sustaining treatment will confine Isaiah to being kept alive for his entire life in an ICU, his life is sustained by machines in a world he cannot meaningfully perceive or connect with.”
The judge also argued that the child would run the risk of infection, aspiration and physical deformation, and that he would have “little to no quality of life.”
“I am satisfied on the evidence before the court that to continue life sustaining treatment for Isaiah will not result in his recovery and will condemn him to a life of profoundly limited quality,” MacDonald ruled, stating that it was with “profound sadness” that he believed it best to let the child go.
Isaiah’s parents appealed the decision, but attempts to ask the courts to save his life were unsuccessful. Therefore, on Wednesday, the hospital disconnected the child’s life support. His parents, who identify as Pentecostal, experienced feelings of both heartbreak and anger as they looked back at what had just happened.
“Seven hours independent breathing suggests he could have been weaned off the ventilator. Shame on the judge, legal system and the hospital,” Haastrup wrote. “Our faith prohibits holding anger in our hearts therefore we forgive, but we will not forget this injustice.”
King’s College Hospital said in a statement, “The Trust always provided Isaiah with the very best care, and the decision to apply to the courts to withdraw treatment was only made after careful consideration and after consultation with the family. In Isaiah’s case, the high court ruled that overwhelming expert and independent medical opinion supported the declaration sought that withdrawing treatment was in his best interests.”
“We recognize that this has been an extremely difficult time for Isaiah’s family as well as those involved in his care since birth. As Mr Justice MacDonald wrote in his judgment ‘no one can imagine the emotional pain of the parents.’ The thoughts of everyone at the Trust are with them.”