Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
Vital Signs

Father fights mother over baby's life

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
The case was being heard in London's High Court.
The case was being heard in London's High Court.
  • Parents battle in British court over whether to switch off life support of their baby
  • Year-old child suffers from rare genetic condition that means he cannot breathe on his own
  • Mother sides with doctors and favors disconnecting baby's respirator; father took case to court to stop them

London, England (CNN) -- A baby born with a severe birth defect put its parents on opposing sides in a British court Monday over whether to switch off the child's life support.

The mother sides with doctors and favors disconnecting the baby's respirator. The father took the case to the High Court in London to stop them.

The child's life is "miserable, sad and pitiful," lawyers for the hospital said in court Monday.

They say the child's lungs fill with fluid every few hours -- giving him the sensation he is choking -- and that doctors must then use suction to remove the fluid, also causing the child to suffer.

The father took the case to court to stop them.

He says the baby can play and recognize its parents. His lawyers plan to show videos of the baby in court to demonstrate he responds to the world around himself.

The baby's parents are amicably separated, the father's lawyer said.

No one involved in the case can be named due to a court order protecting their privacy.

The baby, known as RB, is about one year old and suffers from congenital myasthenic syndrome, a rare genetic condition which means he cannot breathe on his own.

"It causes severe muscle weakness, feeding and respiratory problems, and the disease is progressive," the hospital said in a statement.

The hospital, which is part of Britain's National Health Service, says it is doing what is best for the child.

"Baby RB's case is a deeply tragic one," the hospital said in a statement. "We understand how difficult this legal process must be for both parents and RB's extended family and friends. However, all those involved in the care of RB are taking these steps because they consider it is in RB's best interests."

The baby has been taken off its artificial respirator at least three times, lawyers for the hospital said.

The first time he was able to breathe unaided for 40 minutes. The second time he lasted 30 minutes, and the third time only five minutes before he had to be reconnected to the ventilator, they said.

Judge Andrew McFarlane heard Monday that a new doctor has been contacted about the case and asked that he see the infant urgently.

The doctor, who was not named in court, is being asked to evaluate whether a tracheostomy would help the baby. The operation involves cutting a hole in the infant's throat to help it breathe.

Lawyers for the HNS Trust said the doctor's advice "could change the entire pattern of the case," but that he was not available to see the baby until Saturday.

McFarlane asked lawyers to find out if the doctor could see the RB immediately.

The Mayo Clinic, one of the leading hospitals in the United States, says on its Web site that "different forms of CMS vary widely in their symptoms, from mild to severely disabling. With accurate diagnosis and appropriate therapy, even potentially fatal forms can usually be treated successfully."

There are different types of CMS.

"Despite testing it remains unclear which form of CMS (Baby RB) suffers from," Kiran Bhogal, a lawyer representing the hospital, told CNN.

CNN's Morgan Neill in London contributed to this report.