Disabled girl refused lifesaving treatment to sue hospital

A disabled girl who claims she was refused resuscitation is to
sue a London hospital using the Human Rights Act, in a case that
could help decide whether doctors can override the wishes of
parents, writes Katie Leason.

The 10-year-old girl was in the Royal London Hospital suffering
from pneumonia. Her mother claims that instead of treating her, a
doctor turned down requests to put her on a ventilator, saying she
was not “normal” and would “never get
better”. Later the girl was put on an adult ventilator but
medical staff encouraged her mother to switch it off, it was

Eventually a doctor agreed to transfer the girl to Guys
Hospital, but said that if she could not breathe unaided within 48
hours her mother would have to “say goodbye”. The girl
spent a fortnight on the ventilator, was discharged after three
months, and is now back to her normal self.

Mr Justice Newman who heard the case said it threw up
“very important” human rights issues, and that the
mother had effectively been told that her daughter was “so
disabled there should be no resuscitation”.

The girl and her mother were given permission to seek judicial
review of the Barts and London NHS Trust’s actions, and will
also sue under the Human Rights Act and the Disability
Discrimination Act.

But George Hugh-Jones, for the trust, said that if the
family won the case it could lead to dozens of patients suing

Elsewhere, personal experience has led Jane Campbell, who is a
commissioner with the Disability Rights Commission, to consider
carrying an advance directive with her when she goes into

Earlier this year she went to hospital suffering from pneumonia.
Two clinicians, on separate occasions, suggested to her that she
would not want to be resuscitated should she go into respiratory

“The way that they asked me was highly loaded in one
direction. They assumed that because of the severity of my
disability that I wouldn’t want to live,” she

As a result Campbell’s husband, sister or personal
assistants stayed with her throughout the six day stay.

“At no time was I left alone because I was too
scared,” she said.

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