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NHS has no right to silence when deciding the fate of a toddler

Welcome to Britain in 2014: a country in which a judge can decree in front of its sobbing and praying mother that her child will die and at the same time impose a draconian gagging order that means we are not permitted to know many of the details about this heartbreaking case.

Welcome to a country where a judge can loftily decree that the unnamed child should die in an unknown hospital and we are to be told nothing. What is even more chilling is that the judge accepts the 17-month-old boy’s demise has in part been brought about by the incompetence of staff at the hospital.

However, the fatally incompetent staff, who are pushing to have the toddler’s life support switched off, enjoy a rigid cloak of secrecy that can be challenged only by a lengthy and costly court process.

Poignantly there is little point mounting such a challenge. Following last week’s appalling ruling, the mite is likely to be dead within days, possibly even by the time you read this.

Supporters of this shocking state of affairs that would not have disgraced Stalinist Russia point to the boy being a minor and also being entitled to anonymity because of his medical condition.

That seems a valid point, until you hear the mother and her estranged husband are happy to throw it open to the court of public opinion but have been told they are not allowed.

Yes, you did read that correctly. As a mother sobs and intones prayers in a courtroom, the State, in the form of a High Court judge, can overrule a child’s parents and decree what is in its best interests. Bizarrely in this case, that means his death.

The child has spent virtually his entire life in an intensive care unit on a ventilator after he was born prematurely by Caesarean section last year.

At birth he was identified as being in “poor condition” but a bungle by hospital staff was to seal the boy’s fate. In December his condition deteriorated but staff repeatedly failed to insert a vital tube to help him to breathe. The boy went into cardiac arrest that resulted in “profound irreversible brain damage”.

The judge in this case, Ms Justice Alison Russell, agreed that there had been “multiple failures” and even the NHS trust has launched a “thorough” investigation.

She opposed the parents’ request for reporting restrictions concerning the hospital to be lifted as she said that it risked identifying him and could have an impact on his dignity in his last few days. She seems to have forgotten, or chosen to ignore, that not only do the parents want it to happen, the poor boy is so severely brain damaged and so young he would never know.

By stifling the release of any information, by the time anyone hears any more of the facts of this, the boy will be dead and public debate will be pointless. On the medical side, the parents pray and believe there could still be a miracle and while the skill and dedication of so many of our NHS staff should be cherished and applauded, they do sometimes get things wrong. I should know.

Doctors told my parents that one of my brothers was clinically dead and requested his organs after he was a victim of a road accident some years back.

My parents defied those doctors and my brother Simon went on to enjoy an extra 34 years of productive life working on a national newspaper, running a small business and being a wonderful son, brother and uncle.

On the legal side, this echoes the case of Ashya King, the five-year-old with a brain tumour, whose parents questioned the medical authorities so much, they threatened to take the boy away.

Once the hospital in that case got on to the police, a Europe-wide manhunt was launched and there was no acceptance of the idea that the family might have valid concerns.

Nothing is more dangerous than this creeping sense that it is the authorities that always know best. They do not and our default position should be that the more they say everything is under control, the more we should fear the worst.

For example, the Mid-Staffs hospital scandal in which more than 1,000 patients died, was exposed only because of the remarkable courage of a whistleblower.

The hospital had repeatedly said that there were no problems to be addressed.

So if you, or someone you know or love is going to a hospital to have a baby, or get treatment for a child, be aware you could walk slap bang into the hospital that is behind this.

And you will never know.

Article From The Express