CNA Staff, Nov 10, 2023 / 15:25 pm (CNA).
Senior judges in the United Kingdom ruled today that a terminally ill baby’s life support be removed “immediately,” with the exact time and location as yet unspecified.
The latest news comes from the British advocacy group Christian Concern, which said Friday that Lord Justice Peter Jackson, Lady Justice Eleanor King, and Lord Justice Andrew Moylan made the ruling in the U.K. on Friday evening following a hearing at midday local time.
Indi Gregory, born in February and baptized in September, suffers from a rare degenerative mitochondrial disease and has been receiving life-sustaining treatment on a ventilator at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England.
Justice Robert Peel had ruled Wednesday that Gregory’s life support be removed at 2 p.m. local time on Nov. 9, contrary to the wishes of her parents. That order further mandated that the life support be removed at the hospital or at a hospice, and not at the child’s home, citing a need for “clinical treatment of the highest quality, carried out in a safe and sustainable setting.”
Gregory’s parents have repeatedly appealed to take her to Rome for treatment after the judge originally ruled in October, on the advice of the hospital’s doctors, that it was in the child’s “best interests” to be taken off life support.
In an effort to save Gregory’s life, the Italian government decided in an emergency meeting on Monday to grant her Italian citizenship and to cover the cost of her medical treatment at the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital. The Italian hospital’s general manager, Dr. Antonio Perno, on Nov. 9 had made an urgent application to the U.K. high court calling on Justice Peel to cede jurisdiction of the case to him.
In addition, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni wrote Friday to the U.K.’s lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice in an appeal to bring Gregory to Rome for treatment.
The Friday ruling states that the attempted Italian intervention in Indi Gregory’s case is “wholly misconceived” and “not in the spirit” of the 1996 Hague Convention, to which both the U.K. and Italy are parties.
“Claire and I are again disgusted by another one-sided decision from the judges and the Trust. The whole world is watching and is shocked at how we have been treated,” the child’s father, Dean Gregory, said, as reported by Christian Concern.
“Claire and I have always wanted what is in Indi’s best interests. She has human rights and we wanted her to have the best treatment possible. If the U.K. did not want to fund it, why can she not go to Italy and receive the treatment and care which the amazing Italian prime minister and government has offered. This feels like the latest kick in the teeth, and we will not give up fighting for our daughter’s chance to live until the end.”
The Bambino Gesù, which is run by the Vatican, has offered to treat other terminally ill British infants in the past, such as Alfie Evans in 2018 and Charlie Gard in 2017, both of whom were ultimately denied the chance to travel to Italy by U.K. courts and died days after being removed from life support.
Indi Gregory’s treatment at Bambino Gesù would have been done at no cost to U.K. taxpayers.
Catholic bishops in England have commented on the case, with Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster and Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham speaking out in a statement this week noting the Church’s teaching on end-of-life care.
“The tragic situation of baby Indi Gregory is truly heartbreaking, most especially for her devoted parents Claire and Dean, her siblings, wider family, and friends. Those responsible for her medical care at the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, believe they have done all they can to help her,” the bishops wrote.
“However, as people of hope, we recognize that her parents want to pursue every possible chance of extending her life, even when they know this carries no guarantee of success and would require transfer to the Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome, Italy. In this regard, both parties are seeking to act in Indi’s best interests. Parental love will lead to a desire to take every possible step, and we support this.”
In cases when medical treatment becomes disproportionate to any possible benefit, proper palliative care for a sick person must be maintained, the bishops noted.
“The suspension of disproportionate therapies cannot justify the suspension of basic care, which includes treatments that are required to maintain essential physiological functions as long as the body can benefit from them (such as hydration, nutrition, proportionate respiratory support, thermoregulation, and pain management),” they said. “Alongside spiritual care offered for the one who will soon meet God, the Church views these treatments as necessary to accompany these little patients to a dignified natural death.”
“Prolonged terminal illness is, sadly, part of the human condition,” the bishops acknowledged.
“We should never act with the deliberate intention to end a human life, including the removal of basic care so that death might be achieved. We do, however, sometimes have to recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs. We hope and pray that, in the wake of this decision, the family are gradually able to find some peace over the coming days and weeks. Our prayers are with baby Indi and her parents and family, as well as with those caring for her.”