Archbishop expresses sympathy after baby Charlotte ruling

 Following today's High Court decision that doctors should not resuscitate baby Charlotte Wyatt if she stops breathing, Most Rev Peter Smith, the Archbishop of Cardiff and Chairman of the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said: "I have not yet read the judgement, but no-one can doubt the good faith of everyone involved in this agonising case. The desire of loving parents to ensure everything is done to save their daughter Charlotte can only be admired, and yet we have also to acknowledge and respect the professional judgements of the medical team about the likely consequences of different courses of action. To discern the best course of action in these extremely difficult circumstances is never easy and I feel enormous sympathy for those who have to make the final judgement." The parents of 11 month old Charlotte Wyatt, who weighed just one pound at birth and has serious heart and lung problems, had argued that doctors should revive her. But Mr Justice Hedley sided with Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which had said her quality of life would be so poor she should not be treated. He said further "aggressive" treatment was not in the interests of the child. Justice Hedley said: "I know that may mean that she may die earlier than otherwise she might have done, but in my judgement the moment of her death will only be slightly advanced. I have asked myself: what can now be done to benefit Charlotte?" He said she should be given three things: "As much comfort as possible, as much time as possible to spend in the presence and in contact with her parents and she should be allowed to meet her end, in the words of Mr Wyatt, with the TLC of those who love her the most." He said he had considered allowing doctors to do a tracheostomy - the insertion of a breathing tube through the throat - but had decided against it. He added: "I am only too aware of my own limitations in making so momentous a decision." The couple's solicitor Richard Stein said the parents would not be appealing. He said: "As you will appreciate, Darren and Debbie Wyatt are extremely upset following the judgement handed down this afternoon. "They have asked me to say that they feel it was most important that the issues in the case have been aired in public because as a result everyone has had an opportunity to consider the extremely difficult issues faced by them and numerous other parents in their position." Through their lawyer, the couple thanked the public for the support they have received. Doctors told the court during a two-day hearing last week that Charlotte, who has been in hospital since her birth, will not survive beyond infancy because her lungs are so severely damaged. She was born when her mother was 26 weeks pregnant and is fed through a tube as she cannot suck from a bottle. David Lock, counsel for the hospital, part of the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, told the court last week a doctor had said she was "living in a plastic box" and that her life would be "dominated by pain and suffering". But Charlotte's parents, both committed Christians, argued that, as she has survived this far, she must be given every assistance to help her live. Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA's Ethics Committee, said: "This case has been incredibly difficult and emotional for everyone concerned. It is unusual for doctors and parents not to agree about whether or not to resuscitate a very seriously ill baby but when no consensus can be reached the only way forward is for the case to go to court. The BMA is confident that Mr Justice Hedley, after having heard all relevant information, has made the right decision in the best interests of Charlotte Wyatt."

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