LONDON -- Rejecting a bid by the parents, a British judge yesterday upheld a court order allowing doctors to let a critically ill baby die if she stops breathing -- a move doctors say is the only humane way to end the child's suffering.
Charlotte Wyatt, who is 18 months old, can hardly see or hear and weighed about a pound when she was born prematurely. Her brain and other organs are so seriously damaged that she has ''no feeling other than continuing pain," according to physicians.
Darren and Debbie Wyatt, who believe in preserving life at any cost, sought to overturn a court order granted in October. The Wyatts say Charlotte can see and hear to a limited extent and sometimes smiles.
But Justice Mark Hedley was not persuaded.
''I am quite clear that it would not be in Charlotte's best interests to die in the course of futile aggressive treatment," Hedley ruled yesterday at London's High Court.
If the baby stops breathing, she will be given treatment except for invasive routines of intubation and ventilation -- ''but nothing further," Hedley said.
The case echoes that of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in a vegetative state whose parents and husband fought over whether she should be allowed to die.
Similar cases in Britain have been rare. Terminally ill baby Luke Winston-Jones died last November after the High Court ruled that his doctors could withhold lifesaving treatment, against the wishes of his parents, if his condition deteriorated.
Although the Wyatt case is not the first time doctors and parents have ended up in a British court in such situations, previous hearings have been held in private. Charlotte's parents and the Portsmouth Hospitals National Health Service Trust agreed to its being held in the open court because they felt it was in the public interest.