UK Hospital Fights to Retain “Do Not Resuscitate” Order Despite Child’s Improvement

PORTSMOUTH, August 22, 2005 ( - Charlotte Wyatt, the child with serious lung damage whom doctors predicted would not live past her first weeks of life, is improving dramatically. However, Portsmouth Hospital Trustees went to court to make sure that when Charlotte had a breathing crisis she would not be ventilated, as her parents desperately wished, on the grounds that her life was overly burdensome and should not be prolonged. On January 28 this year, the judge sided with the hospital, but Charlotte, now nearly two years old, continues to fight for her life.

Charlotte was born with damaged lungs and was not expected to live through last winter. She was never expected to improve and has never left the hospital in which she was born. The doctors argued in court that intensive care, should she enter a breathing crisis, would be an “intolerable” burden to her and that they would withhold treatment.Â

Now, however, the hospital is saying that they had always had the intention of treating Charlotte if she showed signs of improvement. The hospital said in a statement, “The existence of the order does not mean that we would never resuscitate Charlotte under any circumstances.”

The hospital said Charlotte’s improvement has been “remarkable.” She is breathing more easily and there is evidence that she is seeing and hearing and doctors are even considering the possibility that she may go home, though in court proceedings, the hospital said that there had been “unanimous” agreement that she would never be able to go home.ÂÂ

Despite the statement, however, the hospital will still be fighting against the request by her parents, Debbie and Darren Wyatt, to remove the ‘do not resuscitate’ order.

“Perhaps the doctors think that resuscitating Charlotte could set her back, but her lungs are less fragile now. Charlotte needs this order lifted,” said Darren Wyatt.

Hospital ethics boards are increasingly deciding against intensive care in cases of serious illness in favour of a set of criteria based around an arbitrarily judged “quality of life.” If a person’s quality of life is judged by a doctor to be below standard, that patient will often be in danger of passive or even active euthanasia by refusal of treatment or starvation and dehydration. Courts are more often siding with hospital boards who often have pragmatic reasons for not wanting to prolong the lives of patients deemed “hopeless” cases.

Minutes from a meeting of the Portsmouth Trust board said, “The trust would be prepared to go to the courts rather than send Charlotte to the intensive care unit. From past experience the court would agree with the doctors as they would feel that doctors cannot be forced to treat a child in a way they believe to be against the child’s best interests - despite the wishes of the parents.”

In the hearings, Wyatt told the court “When you grow to love someone, you can’t just throw them away.” The Wyatts, who are devout Christians, hold that life has inherent value in spite of suffering.

Charlotte’s parents are hoping to raise funds and awareness of her case with a website. The fund, says the site, is to raise funds for her medical care, for re-assessment and for medical equipment so that she can be brought home.

See Charlotte’s Website:

Read previous coverage:
  Court to Hear Debate Over Hospital’s No-Resuscitation Rule for Preemie

Court Sides Against Parents: Resuscitation Not in Interests of Infant Girl


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