Baby RB’s father agrees to terminate his son’s life

By Irene Gimeno

As Baby RB’s father agrees to switch off his one-year-old son’s life support, the debate about euthanasia in the United Kingdom re-opens. Mr AB has withdrawn from the legal battle he started after the doctors made a counter-request to disconnect the baby from external aid, an option supported by the mother.  

After a week of hearings in the Family Division of the High Court the father agreed with the expert opinion, evidence proving that medical assistance can no longer help to improve the baby’s health was heard.

The final decision of the parents was praised by Mr Justice McFarlane, the judge who summarized the case, who declared that they had had an “exemplary” attitude. Both parents burst into tears in the courtroom, the mother having to leave before the session ended.

Nevertheless, not all people support the parents’ torment. Voices have arisen to criticize both the experts and the parents will in blogs and forums- classifying the Justice and parents’ approach to the case as “disgusting” and condemning their decision. Although owing to the extremely sad characteristics of the case, no one has openly expressed themselves against the couple.

On the other hand, there are other sources which oppose to the critics. Not only do they support the parents’ decision but they consider the case should be put aside the euthanasia debate. Mr Chris Docker, Masters of Philosophy (Law & Ethics in Medicine), Director of Exit (formerly the Scottish Voluntary Euthanasia Society), said “the Baby RB case is not really a euthanasia case at all. I looked at similar cases when I was doing my Masters degree. You will find there are clear precedents as to when the courts have ruled when a baby must be given every chance to live at one end, and extreme examples at the other end where the only possibilities facing the child were pain – not even any other sensation. The law does not permit euthanasia. But it allows doctors not to provide treatment if it can have no possibility of benefitting the patient.”

From the beginning, the mother of RB agreed with the specialists, deciding that provoking the death of the baby by terminating the treatment would save him suffering. However, the father of the baby argued that RB was capable of recognising relatives and could make the effort to play, so he brought the case to the courts. He has now given-in the reasoning of doctors, who said that it was impossible to know whether his responses where a result of his will or just automatic.

Baby RB was born in October 2008 with an extremely rare illness called congenital myasthenic syndrome which is a “neuromuscular condition that limits the ability to breathe and move limbs”. His brain being healthy is trapped in a body that needs of artificial resources to function; the doctors announced that his life hope was no more than three years with medical treatment.

It is decided that the medical treatment will end soon so the wish of the parents is now to spend the rest of their son’s days by his side.