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Severely brain-damaged boy should not be resuscitated if condition worsens - court

A SEVERELY brain-damaged six-year-old boy should not be resuscitated if his condition deteriorates, a judge said today.

The President of the High Court ruled against his parents' wishes and found ventilating the youngster invasively would prolong his suffering without any long-term benefit.

But Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns commended the concern, love and support the pair demonstrated for their child at all times.

"Their suffering can only be imagined and indeed I have had opportunity of observing their grief during the various occasions when I had hearings and took evidence in this matter," he added.

The child, his parents and the hospital have not been identified in the case.

The judge said the youngster - known only as SR - had been an energetic and bright toddler until a drowning accident when he was 22 months old in 2007, when he became severely brain-damaged.

"He has no prospect of recovery and the medical evidence is both unanimous and un-contradicted that re-ventilation would not be in his best interests," said Mr Justice Kearns, sitting in Dublin.

"It would involve unnecessary pain and discomfort and would be futile.

"Ultimately it would appear that such treatment would prolong SR's suffering without any long-term benefit to him."

The youngster has been living in a children's home with specialised facilities since January 2008 but regularly needs hospital treatment.

He has been hospitalised seven times since the fitting of a jejunostomy tube - which is inserted through the abdomen for food and medication - in November 2010.

The hospital took the legal challenge requesting a court order that the child not be resuscitated in the event of an acute deterioration requiring invasive treatment if the medical advice is that not resuscitating him would be in his best interests.

The court heard he has severe cerebral palsy, is cortically blind, has no voluntary movement of his limbs, is incontinent, suffers from regular seizures and has developed chronic lung disease.

He has no method of communication but does cry out at times and appears to be soothed by contact with his parents.

Medics said he has no prospect of recovery and is completely dependent for all care needs, requiring two carers to move him when changing position or undertaking personal care.

However the boy's father argued that he believes he would benefit from foetal stem cell transplantation and has identified a doctor from the US who offers this treatment in the Dominican Republic or Mexico.

The treatment is illegal in the US and in Ireland and would cost €23,500.

Mr Justice Kearns said he was of the opinion that ventilation of the child in the circumstances would involve undue pain and suffering and would merely constitute a prolongation of life with no prospect of improvement.

"Further, I do not believe that the option of stem cell treatment - discovered by SR's father in the course of internet researches - offers any real prospect of changing or ameliorating SR's condition even if SR, with his immense care requirements, was capable of travelling to some faraway location to avail of same," the judge continued.

"I do not believe he would be capable of such a journey.

"More importantly, the suggested treatment option, if it can accurately be so characterised, does not have the support of any medical expert who has furnished affidavit evidence to this court."