By Patrick B. Craine

ORANGE, France, November 16, 2009 ( – A hospital in the south of France has been found guilty of taking excessive measures when they successfully revived a newborn baby that had been declared stillborn.  The case was brought by the parents, who are seeking 500,000 euros in damages.

The baby was born in an Orange hospital on December 14, 2002.  The baby's heartbeat had dropped during delivery, and the baby seemed to be dead upon birth.  After twenty-five minutes of attempted resuscitation, the gynecologist informed the parents that the baby was dead, but staff continued their efforts and the heartbeat returned.  The baby has since suffered severe mental and physical disabilities due to the trauma.

The parents' lawyer, Alexandre Berteigne, told that he was pleased with the decision, which he says is unprecedented in France.  “For the first time, a tribunal recognizes that a life without consciousness is not a life,” he said.  He accused the hospital of having “forced to revive a child.”

The judge's ruling, laid down in June, but not revealed until last week, states that hospital staff had been overly aggressive in their attempts to save the child's life.  “By acting this way without taking into account the highly probable harmful consequences for the child,” the verdict states, “the doctors demonstrated unreasonable obstinacy … that constituted a medical error of a nature which engages the responsibility of the Orange hospital.”

According to Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, and an advocate for those with disabilities, the decision could have far-reaching consequences for children born with various anomalies.  If the decision is taken seriously, he said, “it will once again dehumanize people born with disabilities, to the point where their lives will be considered incompatible with life.”

“The judge should have said that while the ethics of [the extraordinary measures] might be questionable,” Schadenberg said. “… now that that child is alive, we cannot question this.”

“If someone is alive, it should simply be deemed that their life is worthy of life, and we should not be judging that life as having value or somehow being a life that should not have happened,” he continued.  “Being alive should be enough.”


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