Despite his parents’ protests that he showed “signs of life,” a four-month old boy who was severely brain damaged was legally declared dead and has been removed from a ventilator in the U.K.
Midrar Ali was disconnected from his ventilator sometime after judges agreed with doctors this month that the boy’s brain stem was dead. But the criteria used in the U.K. case is controversial, and “brain stem death” is not accepted for a diagnosis of death in many parts of the world.
A Catholic bioethicist says Ali’s case deserves careful medical and ethical judgment, and warns that the U.K. has adopted a “problematic” approach to defining death and proper medical care for the severely brain damaged.
“Brain stem death does not necessarily equal death,” said Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., a bioethicist and director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
“Britain has adopted an unorthodox and problematic approach whereby they try to classify somebody with irreversible brain stem damage as ‘dead’ even if other, higher centers of the brain manifest integrative functionality.”
“The medical profession outside of Britain does not widely share this perspective, and certainly the medical profession in the U.S. does not,” Pacholczyk, who holds a Ph.D in neuroscience from Yale University, told CNA Feb. 26.
In September 2019, newborn Midrar Ali suffered severe brain damage during birth, when complications involving his umbilical cord starved him of oxygen. He was treated at St. Mary’s Hospital in Manchester.
News that the boy was disconnected from his ventilator was reported by the BBC Feb. 26. His father called for an inquest and a coroner’s investigation, BBC News reports.
On Feb. 14 an appellate court rejected the legal appeal from the boy’s parents, 35-year-old Karwan Ali and Shokhan Namiq, 28. The court sided with a high court judge who in January ruled that the baby, Midrar, was “brain stem dead.” This meant that doctors could withdraw treatment.
Judges declared that from the court’s perspective, Ali had actually died Oct. 1, 14 days after he was born.
The boy’s father, 35-year-old Karwan Ali, said the judgment was “terrible.”
Read more at Catholic World Report