Medic apologises after baby tried to breathe following decision he was dead

Hospital bosses have asked High Court judge Mr Justice Hayden to make decisions about the seriously ill four-month-old baby

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A senior doctor has told a High Court judge she does not know whether there are other cases similar to one in which a seriously ill baby started trying to breathe after medics decided he was dead.

The doctor, who is involved in the four-month-old’s care, told Mr Justice Hayden that she had never seen such a situation before and a review is ongoing.

She also apologised to the boy’s parents.

Hospital bosses have asked Mr Justice Hayden to make decisions about the infant’s future.

The Royal Courts of Justice
The Royal Courts of Justice

They say the judge should rule the boy, who has a severe brain injury and is on a ventilator, should be given only palliative care.

Mr Justice Hayden is considering evidence at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He has ruled that the boy, referred to as “A” in court papers, cannot be identified in media reports of the case – and that medics involved also cannot be identified.

Bosses at a London hospital trust responsible for the boy’s care became involved in a treatment dispute with his parents earlier in the summer.

Lawyers representing Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust initially told how tests showed the boy was brain-stem dead and asked the judge to make a declaration of death.

But lawyers then told Mr Justice Hayden how a nurse had noticed the boy trying to breathe, more than a week after doctors had carried out brain stem tests and concluded he had died.

Specialists rescinded “the clinical ascertainment of death” and trust bosses have now asked Mr Justice Hayden to decide what moves are in the boy’s best interests, rather than declare him dead.

Barrister David Lawson, who is leading the hospital’s legal team, on Thursday told Mr Justice Hayden that the boy is dying and argued that ventilation should end.

He said the boy had suffered a “devastating” brain injury and asked the judge to rule the infant should now follow a “palliative care pathway”.

The boy’s parents, who are Muslim, want life support to continue.

They view their son’s breathing attempt as a miracle and thought their prayers had been answered, Mr Justice Hayden heard.

The doctor told the judge she had “never seen it” before.

“I think it must be just beyond comprehension (for the parents),” she said. “That doctors looking after their baby can have made what appears to be such a horrible error.”

The judge was told the baby had remained on a ventilator, even though tests had shown him to be brain-stem dead, because there was an ongoing court dispute.

“I don’t know in all honesty whether there are other cases like this,” the doctor told Mr Justice Hayden.

“We are currently reviewing it as professionals.”

The doctor, who at one stage wept while giving evidence, added: “I can only say I am terribly sorry for what has happened.

“It has only made a very difficult situation event more difficult.”

The doctor told the judge that the boy had a severe brain injury, was “dying” and said palliative care would now be in his best interests.

She said he would have a cardiac arrest and resuscitation would fail.

“The little human being that he was,” she said.

“He is no longer.”

She added: “We have still got his body here but the little person he was is no longer.

“He will never come back.

“He should be allowed to go.”

Another specialist told the judge nothing could be done to help the boy.

He said brain tissue had turned to water.

Detail of the case, and the boy’s attempts at breathing, emerged in July when Mr Justice Hayden considered evidence at an online hearing.

The judge had said it was important that what had occurred was put “into the public domain” because it might prove to have “wider resonance”.

He said the circumstances were “entirely unforeseen” and unprecedented in his experience.