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Newborn's dad had no say as life-support withdrawn

THE father of a days-old baby whose life-support was withdrawn by order of the High Court had no say in the matter – because the couple weren't married.

A hospital maternity ward was granted High Court permission to end the life-support of the baby boy whose mother died shortly after giving birth.

The child had only a 10pc chance of survival and would likely be severely physically and mentally disabled, the court heard at a late night sitting last night. It was unable to breathe and swallow and was unlikely to survive beyond 28 days.

CRITICAL

The mother of the child, who was admitted to to the unnamed hospital on Tuesday at 39 weeks pregnant, was suffering from cardiac arrest and when she lapsed into a critical condition after the birth, the heartbreaking decision to withdraw care was made by her mother and legal guardian.

The father and mother of the newborn baby were unmarried which severely complicated matters and although the mother of the infant had identified her own mother as her next-of-kin, this did not give her legal consent over the child.

As the couple were unmarried, the maternity ward did not recognise the father's right to consent to withdraw the life-support to his child which resulted in the case appearing before the High Court last night.

Barrister and doctor Simon Mills explained that the hospital sought the court's approval to switch of the life support machine because it was such a momentous step to take.

"It ended up in the High Court for one essential reason which is that when you want to take a decision in relation to a child, the child cannot give or withhold his or her own consent, someone has to give consent on their behalf," he said on RTE Radio this morning.

GUARDIAN

Dr Mills added: "In this particular situation, as I understand it, the couple were unmarried. Therefore the law as things stand only recognises the mother as being the guardian of the child and therefore the mother is the only person who has the authority to give or withhold consent in relation to the child."

He added it was not that the father 'no legal right' in the decision but likely the hospital wanted protection of the court.

He said a bill was being worked on to provide more flexibility in such cases.

hnews@herald.ie


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