Court of Appeal rules that doctors can stop providing life-support treatment to brain-damaged baby


Re: Re M (Declaration of Death of Child) [2020] EWCA Civ 164

Following the difficult birth of the child, the child was placed on a ventilator in the neonatal intensive care unit. Doctors concluded that the child was clinically dead but the child remained connected to the NICU ventilator, his heart continued to beat and he was fed. The child’s parents do not accept their baby is dead. The Trust sought permission to turn the ventilator off and disconnect it. The High Court had concluded that the application made by the Trust should be granted. The parents appealed. The issue for the court was whether M is dead, according to the DNC tests and relevant clinical guidance and if so whether the ventilator can be removed.

The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s judgment. It held that, as a matter of law, brain stem death is established as the legal criteria in the UK by the House of Lord’s decision in Bland and it was not open to the court to contemplate a different test. The factual and medical evidence before the court was sufficient to justify the findings that M was dead. Insofar as the parents argued that the case should be determined on a ‘best interests’ basis, the outcome of a best interests analysis could not produce any other outcome but approval for the removal of the ventilator.

Lord Daniel Brennan QC was involved in this case.