COMMENT: Surely parents should have the biggest say?

Ely Standard columnist Rosemary Westwell.

Ely Standard columnist Rosemary Westwell. - Credit: Archant

A judge recently decided that a baby should die despite the parents’ wishes.

His parents had raised over a million pounds so that their seriously ill baby had a chance of life in America. Who are we, even the high court, to deny a baby the chance of life?

I know two cases of vulnerable people who are unable to speak for themselves: a child with brain cancer and an adult with dementia. They are brain damaged, but I defy anyone, even the most eminent and experienced doctors to know exactly what these patients are thinking.

One of the child’s parents admitted that he thought she was just an experiment for the medics.

The medics do not know the situation exactly and can only adjust the drugs, radiotherapy and other treatments as best they can to let the child have some kind of life, to still be able to walk and to enjoy what tiny pleasures of life she can.

They are unwilling to provide a prognosis – they admit they do not really know.

Scientists have shown that when some people are in a coma, their brains are still working beneath the vacant façade and when they hear someone talking about playing a sport, the scientists can see the patients’ brain waves responding. Who is to say if or what patients are thinking or in the case of the baby, what thoughts the baby is developing? Who is to say that the baby cannot hear his parents and relate to them?

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One thing is certain, the family of these afflicted will have had far more time with their family member than any nurses, doctors or judges.

I know of someone with dementia who appears to be unable to communicate.

He does not seem to recognise his family, yet when his wife sits with him for some time, there are moments when he suddenly becomes aware.

He knows her, smiling in recognition and lets her know by his facial expression and his cries that he is aware of her and his situation.

The same patient recognised the situation when his wife was joking with the staff in his care home.

The patient smiled knowingly, sharing the joke.

These reactions are not known to have happened with people he does not know or recognise. So how can strangers claim to know more than members of the family?

Everyone, even the most severely restricted has a right to life.

We could all probably name a very famous person in a wheelchair who cannot speak with his own voice who is making a huge contribution to scientific discovery.

Is he not sufficient an example to say no one should be denied hope of life?