Judge outlines sympathies for parents of boy who choked

The health authority involved was the Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust. Credit: PA

A High Court judge who ruled that the life support machine of a toddler from the Manchester area could be turned off after he choked has said it is "almost impossible" to absorb the extent of the distress suffered by the little's boy's parents.

Mr Justice Hayden said the 19-month-old boy had choked on what had appeared to be a "tiny piece of fruit" during the afternoon of February 6 and been found by his mother.

He had quickly lost consciousness and by the next day doctors had concluded that he had suffered a brain injury which made it impossible for him to survive.

His father had told Mr Justice Hayden of descending into a "living hell".

The judge had ruled that the toddler's life support machine could be switched off on February 12 after a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in Manchester and he has now outlined his "profound sympathies" for the little boy's parents in a full written judgment.

Mr Justice Hayden did not identify the little boy but said the health authority involved was the Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust.

Doctors had said "brain stem death" had occurred but the toddler's parents were "unable to contemplate" turning off a life support machine and health authority bosses had asked Mr Justice Hayden to make a ruling.

"It must have been almost impossible for his mother and father to understand how a day which began so ordinarily on 6th February could have deteriorated so rapidly and unexpectedly into what the father has described to me as 'a living hell'," said Mr Justice Hayden.

"In my view, it is almost impossible for any adult to absorb the extent of the parents' distress. Human instinct senses that level of pain and recoils from it. Ultimately, all we, the lawyers and doctors, can do is to offer (the couple) and their family our profound sympathies and condolence."

The judge said the little's boy's father had been at the hearing.

He had wanted to "cleave to what thread of life" he perceived his son still had and had listened to the evidence of a specialist with "bewilderment, frustration and anger - perhaps an inevitable component of such unimaginable grief", said the judge.

Mr Justice Hayden said the little boy's parents had "simply been unable to contemplate turning off ventilatory support" and the toddler's father had clung to "any sign" that might undermine "catastrophic medical conclusions".

But the judge concluded that the time had come to permit a ventilator to be turned off and to allow the toddler "dignity in death".