The Saddest Case Of All
The High Court was called upon to declare a 19 month old Saudi child dead and to order his disconnection from a ventilator at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Sitting until 8.00 at night, Mr Justice Hayden made the order against the wishes of the child’s parents, but on the clearest evidence of brain-death. The case concerned the definition of death- Islam was said to recognise death as being when a person's heart and lungs stop functioning, whereas in England and Wales it is brainstem death. It also involved the extent of the legal powers of a coroner where a person is brain stem dead (and therefore under his jurisdiction) but where there is a dispute as to whether artificial ventilation should cease. The High Court could and should make the decision under its inherent jurisdiction. These interesting legal points however, were of little significance compared to the distress and pain suffered by this little boy’s parents.
Simon Burrows acted for the coroner.