Doctors call for access to court to prevent parental views prolonging suffering of critically ill children
Doctors Joe Brierley and Andy Petros and hospital chaplain Jim Linthicum, all of Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, studied 290 deaths over the past three years at the hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit. The research was carried out for The Journal of Medical Ethics.
In 17 cases the Doctors found “a predominant theme of expression of strong religious belief influencing the family’s response to the critical illness of their child”.
The Doctors said “There has to be a legal presumption that life has to be sustained; but ethically the sanctity of life can be balanced against the futility of inappropriate attempts to prolong it.
“The current position of undergoing internal and external medical reviews (second opinions) and ethical reviews before seeking a court order can be protracted and arguably damaging to parents, to healthcare workers looking after the child and of course most importantly to the child itself. Such situations should result in rapid intervention, despite clearly conflicting with religious views central to the parents’ life plan.
“Instead, usually after many weeks or months of protracted unsuccessful discussions, with both sides trying to get the other to see their point of view, a request is made to the courts for a declaration on how to proceed. Many are unused to or unprepared to take this route and leave the child in an unacceptable condition for fear of unfavourable publicity or costs or outcome.”