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Life Or Death: Parents Await High Court Judgment

The High Court would pass judgment regarding an appeal by health officials, requesting the withdrawal of all life support measures, to let a 17-month-old boy die//. Lawyers who are currently handling the case of this severely disabled boy argue that his quality of life is so poor and that doctors should be allowed to let him die.

The identities of the boy and the treating physicians have not been revealed due to controversies surrounding right-to-life decisions. The boy, referred to as MB, hails from North England, and suffers from an incurable disease called spinal muscular dystrophy. The disease is characterized by progressive muscle-weakening and wasting, eventually leading to total paralysis.

The boy can only move his eyebrows and fingers and feet very slightly. He is dependent on medical instruments for assistance in breathing, chewing and swallowing. The boy is currently being kept alive through a respirator (ventilator). The patient is however mentally alert and able to recognize and respond to his parents. The NHS trust, involved in the treatment has requested that the machine be turned off to let him die in peace.

The parents are however interested in the provision of surgical treatment for his life threatening condition, hoping that it would ensure a improved quality of life. He might survive if tracheotomy can be performed successfully on the boy. It is a surgical procedure in which a hole is cut into the windpipe followed by insertion of a synthetic tube to enable breathing.

'We want our son to have a tracheotomy so we could take him home and give him a life instead of him being stuck in a hospital cubicle. We are very hopeful we can persuade the court that his quality of life is good enough so that treatment should not be withdrawn,' said the boys mother.

This however is not the only case that has made its way to the court. The High court had earlier allowed Charlotte Wyatt, a two-year-old girl, ( a victim of viral infection with a worst prognosis) to continue with her treatment based on her right to life-saving treatment. The doctors treating her condition felt that she would not be able to survive against the fatal infection. Much to the surprise of doctors, she is slowly beginning to recover.

The parents and solicitors point put to a similar case of Abbie Tinkley, a 19-month old baby, also a spinal muscular atrophy sufferer. The parents succeeded in ensuring her right to have a tracheotomy, even when doctors felt that she would not recover. The quality of her life is said to have improved considerably since then.


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