The heartbroken parents of a severely brain-damaged six-year-old boy known only as SR do not want their child to die. Using the Internet, his father has found a doctor who will treat the boy for $30,000 on a Caribbean island.
But Dublin High Court President Mr. Justice Nicholas Kearns last week ruled that the boy should not be resuscitated if his condition deteriorates.
The judge, ruling against his parents’ wishes, found ventilating the youngster invasively would prolong his suffering without any long-term benefit. The judge also decided that, even if stem-cell treatment, outlawed in Ireland and the U.S., offered any real prospect, the child was incapable of traveling to some faraway location to avail of it.
The court decision means that SR can be effectively left to die. His parents do not get to decide what is in his best interest.
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Kearns commended the concern, love and support the parents demonstrated for their child at all times.
“Their suffering can only be imagined and indeed I have had opportunity of observing their grief during the various occasions when I had hearings and took evidence in this matter,” he said.
The judge said the youngster had been an energetic and bright toddler until a drowning accident when he was 22 months old in 2007, after which he became severely brain damaged.
The judge added in his Dublin court, “He has no prospect of recovery and the medical evidence is both unanimous and un-contradicted that re-ventilation would not be in his best interests. It would involve unnecessary pain and discomfort and would be futile.
“Ultimately it would appear that such treatment would prolong SR’s suffering without any long-term benefit to him.”
A hospital caring for the youngster took the legal challenge requesting a court order that the child not be resuscitated in the event of an acute deterioration requiring invasive treatment if the medical advice is that not resuscitating him would be in his best interests.
The court heard he has severe cerebral palsy, is cortically blind, has no voluntary movement of his limbs, is incontinent, suffers from regular seizures and has developed chronic lung disease. He has no method of communication but does cry out at times and appears to be soothed by contact with his parents.
Medics said he has no prospect of recovery.
However, the boy’s father argued that he believes he would benefit from fetal stem cell transplantation, and identified a doctor from the U.S. who offers this treatment in the Dominican Republic or Mexico.
Kearns said he did not believe the option of stem cell treatment, discovered by SR’s father in the course of Internet researches, offered any real prospect of changing or ameliorating the child’s condition and it did not have the support of any medical expert who had furnished evidence to the court.