Court says no to ventilator for baby

Last updated 17:02 21/01/2013

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An Australian Supreme Court judge has refused a parental request for a terminally ill baby to be placed on a mechanical ventilator in a case he described as "one of the saddest" imaginable.

The nine-month-old baby, known only as Mohammed, is severely brain-damaged, deaf and blind.

Doctors at The Children's Hospital at Westmead, where he has been treated since the age of two months, believe he has only weeks or months to live.

Mohammed's parents filed an emergency application with the NSW Supreme Court just before Christmas seeking an order compelling medical staff to treat their son by means of mechanical ventilation.

The procedure sends oxygen to a patient's lungs through a tube to alleviate breathing difficulties.

At the time, the baby was being given oxygen via a non-invasive machine.

During an emergency hearing held at the hospital on December 21, Mohammed's mother and father, described by

Justice Peter Garling as "model parents", said their son should be given any treatment that could help him breathe.

They said he would then have a chance to resist, or better cope with, his other illnesses.

They said Mohammed had survived the nine months of his life because he was a "fighter" and, if given the chance, he would continue to fight for his health and life for as long as possible.

Mohammed's doctors submitted it was not in the baby's best interests to be placed on a ventilator, which they described as an invasive procedure.

They argued that since Mohammed's condition was terminal, the risks associated with ventilation and the pain and distress it would cause significantly outweighed any benefit Mohammed would receive.

Instead, they said he should be given pain relief and palliative care.

In a judgment handed down on Christmas Eve, Justice Garling found placing Mohammed on a mechanical ventilator would not cure his condition, nor play any role in a better outcome.

"Mohammed's life is to be measured in the short term," Justice Garling said, in refusing to grant the parents' application.

"He should not be subjected to pain and discomfort for the remainder of his life by being placed on mechanical ventilation from which he will not be weaned."

"The present case is one of the saddest which can be imagined," he said.

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- AAP

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