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Christian family 'praying for miracle' as doctors seek to withdraw life support to 12 year old boy

by Press Association

A 12-year-old boy who was found hanging in his bedroom will have life-sustaining treatment withdrawn after a High Court judge agreed with doctors that prolonging his life was not in his best interests.

The boy, known only as J for legal reasons, suffered a "profound, severe neurological injury" in April as a result of a lack of oxygen to the brain and cardiac arrest.

Doctors at Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust asked the High Court to make a declaration that withdrawing intensive care was in his best interests.

The child's parents, who are devout Christians, opposed the application and argued that treatment should continue to give their son a chance to recover.

But Mr Justice Hayden, who heard the case remotely last week, agreed with the trust's doctors that the treatment was "prolonging J's death and not saving his life".

The judge added that "the prolongation of his death in the circumstances of this burdensome treatment" was not in his best interests.

Mr Justice Hayden said it was "a case of almost unbearable sadness", adding: "That it should arise in the circumstances of a global pandemic makes it almost unimaginable to those of us not experiencing it."

He said J had contracted Covid-19 in hospital, which meant that "for two weeks, he could see only his mother and no one else in his family".

The judge said: "That J's father was not able to see his son for those 14 days is completely heartbreaking."

Mr Justice Hayden explained that the boy "was found hanging by a ligature around his neck from the back of his bedroom door" in April.

He said: "Nobody has any idea at all why, in that short period away from his family, he did what he did."

The most recent scan of his brain, taken in late July, "shows distinct deterioration in the months that J has been in hospital", Mr Justice Hayden said.

The judge said "there is complete consensus amongst all the consultants" that continued treatment is not in J's best interests.

He said that, in early May, J "managed a few days" without mechanical ventilation, which was "in effect a trial to see whether a tracheostomy might be possible".

But, Mr Justice Hayden said, "the sad conclusion was that it was not".

The judge added that, as the hearing was conducted remotely, he was able to visit the child in hospital and spoke to his older brother, who he said was "very proud of his talented, fit, determined younger brother".

Mr Justice Hayden said: "J is profoundly loved in this family. Their love for this boy is almost palpable, even in the artificiality of these remote hearings."

He concluded: "J's life, I am satisfied, can properly be described - in what might sound a brutal medical term - as futile.

"That means simply this: that the damage to his brain is so extensive and widespread that he will not make any recovery from this awful episode and keeping him alive will achieve no benefit."

J's family's solicitor Yogi Amin, a partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "This is a tragic case. The child's parents want all steps to be taken and more time to allow for their son to recover from his injury.

"They believe the doctors and nurses have provided an excellent professional service and are grateful for the care and treatment given to their son.

"The legal decision to end treatment has been made by the court and the family will continue to pray to god for a miracle."

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