Dublin, Ireland, Jan 27, 2021 / 17:01 pm
The Supreme Court of Ireland ruled Friday that a hospital may withhold medical treatment contrary to the wishes of the parents of a child with severe injuries.
“The withholding of treatment to a child does not necessarily require parental consent to be lawful if it based on a properly made decision as to the best medical interests of the child and it would be contrary to medical ethics to provide the treatment,” the court wrote in its Jan. 22 decision In the matter of JJ.
Among the problems raised by the case are the end of life, family decisions on health treatment, and children’s rights.
The boy, John, had an accident in June 2020, and has since been in hospital. He has significant physical injuries, many of which he is not expected to recover from, as well as brain injuries believed to be irreversible.
Among these are dystonia; he has muscle contractions whenever he is discomforted. The court wrote that the “dispute between the Hospital and John’s parents arose because of differences between them as to the treatment of John’s dystonia.” The dystonia has now been controlled, but his doctors believe it is “merely hidden, not gone.”
John’s doctors would want to use painkillers were a dystonic episode life-threatening; but this would reduce or suppress his respiratory functions, which could lead to his death: “it is their professional opinion that, ultimately, John will suffer a dystonic crisis incapable of successful intervention.”
His parents believe he would want his life continued as long as possible by whatever means necessary, but his medical team thinks this would merely prolong his suffering, and ‘that it would be in his best interests not to administer any intensive or aggressive intervention” in the event of a dystonic crisis he can’t withstand.
In August the hospital applied to the High Court to make John a ward of the court and allow them to give the treatment they believe to be in his best interest. The court admitted John to wardship on the first day of the hearing.