Montreal Children’s Hospital faces a $3.5 million lawsuit for allegedly putting a couple’s severely disabled newborn daughter back on life support without their consent.
Phebe Mantha was born on November 5, 2007 at another Montreal hospital, where she allegedly suffered complications during birth, the National Post reports.
She was transferred to Montreal’s Children’s Hospital, where doctors told her parents Marie-Eve Laurendeau and Stephane Manthe, that she would never be able to breathe or feed on her own.
They were also told that she would be deaf and dumb and would never see or walk.
“They told the couple that Phebe would have very little consciousness of life and doctors recommended to withdraw feeding and breathing support," said the couple’s lawyer, Jean-Pierre Menard.
The parents agreed to withdraw life support, reportedly believing it would avoid their daughter’s significant suffering.
Contrary to the doctors’ prognosis, Phebe was able to breathe on her own. However, she could only accept food through a tube.
According to Menard, the doctors said that Phebe suffered each time she was fed and recommended removing nutrition and giving palliative care to “control any discomfort.”
"The parents said it was the worst decision they ever had to make but they could not see what kind of life Phebe would have,” the couple’s lawyer said. They believed if their child could somehow consent, she would have “agreed to have her life end."
However, the hospital’s ethics committee overturned the decision and ordered Phebe’s feeding to continue. Menard alleged that the committee consulted neither the original doctors nor the parents, despite their obligation to do so.
"The ethics committee attempted to impose their morality on the couple, something they had no right to do," argued Menard, the National Post reports.
A few days after the committee’s decision, when Phebe’s parents learned their daughter was back on life support, Menard said there was little they could do.
“The parents by this time were demolished. They could not go and ask a court to kill their child,” he said.
Though the parents believed Phebe would live her remaining days at the hospital, 10 weeks later they were told that she would have to go to an institution or would have to go home.
Laurendeau was given training and equipment needed to keep Phebe alive, but had to quit work because it was impossible to obtain care for the girl.
According to Menard, the parents attend Phebe 10 to 20 times a day, feeding her and suctioning her airways and stomach. The child requires a high level of care because she is in danger of catching a life-threatening illness.