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Doctors can stop treating brain damaged girl, court rules

Written by on 8 January 2021

Doctors can stop providing life-support treatment to a five-year-old girl who is in a vegetative state, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Poole said it was not in Pippa Knight’s “best interests” to keep her on a ventilator.

The child’s mother, Paula Parfitt, is disappointed with the ruling and wants Court of Appeal judges to consider her daughter’s case, her lawyers said.

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Pippa became unwell in December 2016

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

A rare condition was diagnosed – acute necrotising encephalopathy – which led to brain damage.

Specialists treating her at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London advised that life-support treatment should end.

Hospital bosses asked Mr Justice Poole to rule that allowing Pippa to die would be lawful and in her best interests.

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Paula Parfitt disagreed, and wanted Pippa to be placed on a portable ventilator and taken home.

The judge, who heard evidence in the Family Division of the High Court in December, ruled on Friday that life-support treatment should end and Pippa be allowed to die.

She has no “no conscious awareness of her environment” or “interactions with others”, he said.

Paula Parfitt wants Pippa to be placed on a portable ventilator
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Paula Parfitt wants Pippa to be placed on a portable ventilator

The judge added: “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.”

Mr Justice Poole said Ms Parfitt, 41, from Strood in Kent, had “fought as hard for Pippa as any parent could”.

But he continued: “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 also said he could not “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”.