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Report No. 196

(19) Re T (Wardship: Medical Treatment) (CA) 1997(1) WLR 906 (Butler Sloss, Waite and Rock L JJ) (24.10.96) (This case has been referred in the Twin's case above)

A male child who was born with a life-threatening liver defect underwent surgery soon after birth, when he was three and a half weeks old. The operation was unsuccessful and caused the child considerable pain and distress. Medical prognosis was that he would not live beyond 2½ years if there was no liver transplant. The doctors expressed the view that the child was suitable for liver transplant, though it was a complicated procedure, and that there were chances of success and if the liver was transplanted, the child could live for many years, a normal life. The mother refused consent as she felt the surgery would be painful. The local authority applied to the Court for permission to have surgery performed. The Judge held that the mother's opposition was unreasonable and directed surgery.

On appeal by the mother, the judgment was reversed where invasive surgery was likely to prolong life of a child born with a threatening defect and the parents opposed surgery and refused consent, the paramount consideration was no doubt for the welfare of the child and about the reasonableness of the mother's refusal. Since the child's welfare depended on the mother who is expected to take care of the child, her views were relevant and the trial Judge erred in deciding that her view was unreasonable.

The Judge failed to assess the relevance or the weight of the mother's concern as to the benefits to her child on account of the surgery and post-operative treatment, the dangers of failure both long-term as well as short term treatment, the possibility of the need for further transplant, the likely length of life and the effect on her child of all those concerns together with the strong reservations expressed by one of the doctors about coercing the mother into playing a crucial part in the aftermath of the operation and thereafter.

Medical Treatment to Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Back

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