Hospital secures order allowing it withdraw life-sustaining treatment from baby

Mother was 39 weeks pregnant and in cardiac arrest when she arrived at hospital


A Dublin maternity hospital has secured a High Court order allowing it withdraw life-sustaining treatment from a severely brain-damaged newborn baby whose young mother died shortly after delivering him.

The mother was 39 weeks pregnant and in cardiac arrest when she arrived at the hospital by ambulance yesterday afternoon and required extensive resuscitation, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, was told at a late night sitting tonight.

The baby boy was delivered by an emergency perimortem caesarean section procedure and the mother was then transferred to the intensive care unit in another hospital, the judge heard. Her condition was critical and a decision to withdraw medical treatment from her was made. She died shortly afterwards.

When the baby was born, his weight was 3.9kg, he had no respiratory activity and needed artificial ventilation to stabilise him. He remains on a ventilator and heart support, is severely brain damaged suffering from severe encephalopathy, and is being administerd morphine as doctors believe he is suffering pain.

The court heard doctors believe the baby has only a 10 per cent chance of surviving longer than 28 days and, if he does do so, he will be severely and profoundly physically and mentally disabled, unable to move or swallow, requring life long care.

Doctors also considered keeping the child on a ventilator would prolong his suffering when his prognosis was very poor. It was consideed that it was in the child’s best interests to cease the treatment. This was one of the worst cases to have been admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital in the last five years, it was also stated.

Because the baby’s parents are not married and the baby’s mother was his sole legal guardian, the hospital needed a court order to withdraw life sustaining treatment from him, Eileen Barrington SC, for the hospital, said. Both parents are Irish, counsel added.

Ms Barrington said the child’s mother had named her own mother as her next of kin on hospital forms. Doctors had explained the situation to the grandmother and the child’s father and both were consenting to the life-sustaining treatment being withdrawn, she said. The father had named the baby, counsel added.

Mr Justice Kearns said it was a very sad case and he expressed sympathy to the baby’s father and grandmother. The grandmother had also lost her daughter in this situation, the judge observed.

On the basis of the evidence and the law, the judge said he would accede to the hospital’s application.