Doctors to withdraw life-support of brain damaged girl, 5, despite mum’s pleas

The “devastated” mum of a young girl who has suffered brain damage and is in a vegetative state plans to appeal after a High Court judge ruled doctors can stop providing life-support treatment.

Mr Justice Poole ruled on Friday that Pippa Knight, from Strood, Kent, should be allowed to die, following a trial in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

Specialists at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London are treating Pippa for a rare condition called acute necrotising encephalopathy.

They said her life-support treatment should end, and hospital bosses had asked the judge to rule that ending treatment, and allowing Pippa to die, would be lawful and in her best interests.

Pippa’s mother, Paula Parfitt, 41, disagreed and wanted Pippa to be placed on a portable ventilator and allowed home. Her lawyers said she was “disappointed” by the ruling and will continue her fight.

Paula Parfitt, who now wants Court of Appeal judges to consider the case, said she initially wanted a home-care trial and was devastated by the judge’s decision.

She said: “I am devastated by the judgment of Mr Justice Poole today that it is not in Pippa’s best interests to have a two-week trial of portable ventilation to find out whether she could come home.

“I have spent every day by Pippa’s side since she was admitted to the Evelina Hospital two years ago.

“The medical experts and the treating doctors said that Pippa was not in any pain.

“I don’t understand why the hospital and the court wouldn’t let me find out whether Pippa could come home to be cared for with all her family around her, when two independent doctors from reputable hospitals in England both said that they thought this was worth trying.

“Instead, the court has decided that all Pippa’s treatment should be withdrawn so that she dies.

“I will be seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

“I want Pippa to have every possible chance to come home and be with her family.”

Mr Justice Poole, who heard evidence at a trial in the Family Division of the High Court in London in December, ruled on Friday that life-support treatment should end and Pippa should be allowed to die, saying she now had no awareness of her environment and there would be “no benefit” to her being at home.

The judge said the case was “heart-rending”, adding in his ruling during a remote hearing: “Ms Parfitt has fought as hard for Pippa as any parent could.

“Responsibility for the decisions in this case lies with the court, not with her. My conclusion is that continued mechanical ventilation is contrary to Pippa’s best interests.”

He said that he “cannot give weight to Ms Parfitt’s view that home care would improve Pippa’s condition, because it is at odds with the unanimous view of the clinicians and medical experts”.

The judge added: “It is agreed by all the medical witnesses that Pippa has no conscious awareness of her environment or interactions with others.

“Therefore, there would be no benefit to her from being in a home bedroom as opposed to a hospital unit.

“Family members may be able to spend more time with her at home in a more peaceful and welcoming environment, but she would not be aware of their visits or of the benefit to others.

“She would not be aware of any of the changes in her environment or in her care regime.”

Lawyers representing Pippa’s mother said she wanted to mount an appeal against the judge’s ruling.

They said she was disappointed with the ruling and wanted Court of Appeal judges to consider Pippa’s case.

Pippa was born on April 20, 2015, and initially developed normally, but in December 2016 she became unwell and began to suffer seizures.

Specialists diagnosed a rare condition – acute necrotising encephalopathy.

The judge said she now had no awareness of her environment.

At the December hearing, Pippa’s mum had told the judge that she believed in “God’s law”, which is to preserve life.

The judge heard that Pippa’s father was dead.

Ms Parfitt told the judge: “I just will not give up on her. If there is an opportunity for her to go home then it is what God would want.”

She said no-one could predict what might happen in the future and there might be changes in medical science.

Ms Parfitt added: “She needs to be given the opportunity because nobody knows.

“I don’t think you know if anything will work unless you try it.”

She added: “I want my daughter to go home, have a tracheostomy and portable ventilation, and whatever will be, will be.”

In December, a barrister representing the NHS trust which runs the hospital told the judge that the case was tragic.

But Michael Mylonas QC said there was no hope that Pippa would improve.

“The decision to bring this application is made only after the most anxious consideration and review of all the available evidence,” said Mr Mylonas, who represents Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

“Given Pippa’s position, her inability to sense pleasure, the impossibility of her deriving any benefit from prolonged life and the absence of any hope that the future might bring some improvement in her condition, the applicant trust regretfully submits that the appropriate order is the declaration in the terms sought.”