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Vatican ethicist comments on British baby case

A Vatican bioethicist has highlighted complexities surrounding a recent British court ruling on whether or not doctors must resuscitate a dying baby who has stopped breathing.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said the case raises the difficulty in determining the difference between euthanasia and withholding futile medical treatment.

Bishop Sgreccia said that without examining the clinical records of Charlotte Wyatt, an 11-month-old British baby, he could not judge the morality of ruling in her case last Thursday.

A British High Court judge sided with the child's doctors, ruling that they did not have to resuscitate the seriously ill baby, who was born three months premature, if she stopped breathing. She already had been resuscitated three times.

The baby's parents, Darren and Debbie Wyatt, had opposed the doctors' position, asking the court to order them to do everything possible to keep the baby alive if she stopped breathing again.

The father told the court, however, that if a time came when it was clear that Charlotte really was suffering -- as the physicians said she was -- he and his wife would not oppose an order not to resuscitate.

Vatican ethicist: British case shows complexity in picking treatment (Catholic News Service 12/10/04)

Pontifical Academy for Life
Archbishop Expresses Sympathy after Baby Charlotte Ruling (The Catholic Church in England and Wales 7/10/04)
Court to rule on sick baby care (BBC 13/10/04)
Baby boy is now facing life or death court ruling (London Telegraph 13/10/04)
Anguish over right-to-live baby case (ICWales 12/10/04)

14 Oct 2004