Why do parents need a court order to seek different medical care for their dying children?

There are 9 replies in this Thread. The last Post () by Glamdring.

  • Perhaps I've missed something, but the case of Alfie Evans isn't the first of its kind and his parents had to take their case all the way through the supreme court to the European court of human rights.

    Surely, once they have received as much medical advice as they can, the care of their children should ultimately be in their hands. For a court to decide to pull the plug on their life support, appears not only unjust, but barbaric.

    Alfie died earlier today, even though the Vatican had offered treatment in Rome, but his parents were not allowed to take him there.

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk…ithdrawal-of-life-support


    This is a legal summary of the whys and wherefores.

    https://www.sintons.co.uk/news…limits-parental-autonomy/

  • I've been only vaguely aware of this case, and the article didn't give much background. The related timeline article used weighted expressions like "hospital bosses" and "deemed not worthy of consideration by the Supreme Court." . But the first article did say "Alfie had been in a semi-vegetative state and scans of his brain had shown that almost all of it had been destroyed. Judges had agreed with doctors that further treatment would be futile and there was no hope of him getting better."


    Neither the parents nor the hospital could have unlimited resources. Is it hard-hearted to ask how it could be helpful to the child, to mechanically keep him in a vegetative state for additional months or years? Or, for that matter, to fly the child, with all of his life-support machinery, to Italy for "treatment." What treatment can restore a destroyed brain?


    The Sintons Law article explained that the responsibility of the court is to consider what is best for the child, not the parents:

    "The judge must decide what is in the child’s best interests. In making that decision, the welfare of the child is paramount, and the judge must look at the question from the assumed point of view of the patient. There is a strong presumption in favour of a course of action which will prolong life, but that presumption is not irrebuttable. The term “best interests” encompasses medical, emotional, and all other welfare issues. The court must conduct a balancing exercise in which all the relevant factors are weighed…"


    The situation and the child's degenerative disease are heartbreaking, and the Court's decision has the appearance of heartlessness. But what possible benefit would there be to prolonging the inevitable? The child could not be healed, even if "treated" for the next 20 years.

  • I do agree on the medical-scientific and cynical approach to medical decisions, however I believe that courts (and commissions) are not REALLY prepared on every subject.

    I don't really want to mix orange and apples, but the commission hearing Zuckerberg didn't know much about the matter being discussed, so I am not expecting that the judge(s) who decided that Alfie's life was 'not worth any more medical efforts or public money expenditure' were really able to take an informed decision, medically-wise.


    That said, we cannot force a public administration to flight us abroad to receive what we consider 'better medical care' or where we have been offered false hope. Limits are drawn anyway - they may be medical limits, money limits, politics limits.

  • A complicated issue. In one case a couple of years ago, after a court case that went against the parents, a child was abducted by them and ultimately taken to Romania or somewhere, where a real, proper, advanced technique saved his life and now we're adopting that here this year.

    In another case the American doctor was a fraud, knew nothing about the child but all about publicity.

    In this case it was an Italian politician after publicity, and a very well organised, thuggish and vile campaign by pro-lifers here, quite prepared to bully hospital staff, parents visiting other patients, and the doctors themselves to get their agenda on the TV.

    The Italians didn't have a cure, they just wanted to keep the poor mite physically alive, brain dead as he was, for a little while longer.

    In the UK the courts are entirely separate from the State. The Government couldn't even comment without getting into a vicious row. It's the job of the courts to decide on the fate of the patient once they've heard all the evidence. The parents have a chance to make their case, and their legal aid bill will have cost us millions.


  • A complicated issue. In one case a couple of years ago, after a court case that went against the parents, a child was abducted by them and ultimately taken to Romania or somewhere, where a real, proper, advanced technique saved his life and now we're adopting that here this year.

    In another case the American doctor was a fraud, knew nothing about the child but all about publicity.

    Glamdring , can you tell us specifics about these cases? I'm scratching my head and trying to imagine any kind of advanced medical technique coming out of Romania. Would like to read about that case.

  • Here's a link. I know the family went to Central Europe where private hospitals can be pretty advanced in particular areas. The boy here is still going and seems well.

    https://www.nhs.uk/news/cancer/what-is-proton-beam-therapy/

    Let's hope that this approach will prove to be as good as or better at destroying cancerous tissue than conventional radiotherapy for the treatment of a range of brain cancers.


    Sadly, Alfie Evans had a degenerative brain disease, which had destroyed most of his brain tissue before this ever became a legal issue.