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UK brain dead test under review after baby declared brain dead began breathing independently

Jake Massey

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| Last updated 

UK brain dead test under review after baby declared brain dead began breathing independently

The test used in the UK to determine whether someone is brain dead is under review.

Sky News reported that medics and ethicists at the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) are rewriting guidance on brain stem testing - the legal criteria for brain death used by hospitals to end life support treatment for those with severe brain damage - which the AMRC has since confirmed with LADbible.

It comes after a baby declared dead started trying to breathe, with the parents now waiting for a High Court judge's ruling on a life support dispute.

The baby was declared dead. Credit: Lev Dolgachov / Alamy Stock Photo
The baby was declared dead. Credit: Lev Dolgachov / Alamy Stock Photo

Bosses at a London hospital trust responsible for the four-month-old boy's care became involved in a treatment dispute with his parents earlier this summer and asked a judge to consider the case.

Lawyers representing Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust said tests showed that the boy - who has suffered a serious brain injury and is on a ventilator - was brain stem dead and wanted a declaration of death.

But they subsequently returned to court and told Mr Justice Hayden that a nurse had noticed the boy trying to breathe, more than a week after doctors had carried out brain stem tests and concluded that he had died.

Specialists rescinded 'the clinical ascertainment of death' and trust bosses asked the judge to decide instead what moves were in the boy's best interests.

The trial was overseen in the Family Division of the High Court in London yesterday (Thursday 25 August) and is due to deliver a ruling today (Friday 26 August).

A senior doctor, involved in the baby's care, told the judge she had 'never seen it' before.

"I think it must be just beyond comprehension (for the parents)," she said. "That doctors looking after their baby can have made what appears to be such a horrible error."

The doctor, who wept while giving evidence at one point, added: "I can only say I am terribly sorry for what has happened.

"It has only made a very difficult situation event more difficult."

The test in the UK to determine whether someone is dead is now under review. Credit: EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo
The test in the UK to determine whether someone is dead is now under review. Credit: EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo

The doctor told the judge that the boy had a severe brain injury, was 'dying' and said palliative care would now be in his best interests. She also said he would have a cardiac arrest and resuscitation would fail.

"The little human being that he was," she said. "He is no longer."

A specialist also told the judge nothing could be done to help the boy.

Barrister David Lawson, who led the hospital's legal team, asked Mr Justice Hayden to rule that the baby should now follow a 'palliative care pathway'.

However, the boy's parents, Muslims of Bangladeshi origin, want him to remain on a ventilator.

Details of the case – and the attempts at breathing – emerged in July when Mr Justice Hayden considered evidence at an online hearing. He said at the time that the baby's parents regard what happened as a 'miracle'.

But he also said evidence indicated the boy was 'not likely' to recover.

The judge said it is important that what occurred is put 'into the public domain' because it might prove to have 'wider resonance'.

He said the circumstances were 'entirely unforeseen' and unprecedented in his experience.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

Topics: UK News, Health

Jake Massey
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