The Baby D Decision

22 March 2011

Associate Professor Cameron Stewart comments on a groundbreaking decision by the Family Court, which spells out what parents can decide when faced with difficult treatment decisions for an ailing, severely disabled infant.

"Baby D was a twin born with extreme prematurity," he told ABC Radio National's The Law Report.

"Her prematurity meant she needed assistance, as most premature babies do, with breathing and other intensive forms of care.

"When she was born she was placed immediately in a neo-natal intensive care unit and she was ventilator-dependent for a time so she had a tube placed in her oesophagus to breathe.

"During that period it seemed to be going well but then a question emerged as to whether to remove that tube because they believed she was at the point where she could breathe on her own.

"Unfortunately when the tube was removed she didn't react well and she had swelling that occured in her windpipe.

"That swelling contracted to a point where they felt they had to put the tube back in and

it took 35 minutes to put the tube back.

"During that period they believed she went without oxygen and there was severe structural damage to the child's brain."

Associate Professor Stewart says the parents and doctors agreed to remove the tube and provide her with pallative care based on quality of life and approached the Family Court to approve this decision.

"The issue in this case was to determine whether parents can make a decision to withdraw treatment from a child," he says.

"The Family Court decided that the case of Baby D was one such instance where parents could make this decision."

Download or listen to the audio - Baby D - The Law Report

Contact: Greg Sherington

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