Judge agrees to open door to 'life' case

By Roger Pearson and Caitlin Pike

The BBC successfully campaigned last week for a behind-closed-doors right-to-life test case to be made public.

The case focused on the plight of a 17-month-old boy suffering from spinal muscular atrophy. Doctors were seeking guidance from the High Court over whether artificial breathing aids for the boy, who cannot be identified, could be withdrawn to allow him to die with dignity. His parents wanted him kept alive even though his condition is progressive and incurable.

Initially the case began last week in private before Mr Justice Holman.

However, after moves by the BBC the judge opened his court for the remainder of the hearing and his judgment to take place in public.

Social affairs correspondent Branwen Jeffreys became aware of the case and realised that there was, as in the case of Charlotte Wyatt, a significant degree of public interest involved. Wyatt was the premature baby at the centre of the case in which Portsmouth NHS Trust argued, against her parents’ wishes, that she should not be revived if she stopped breathing.

Head of television news, Peter Horrocks, agreed that BBC lawyers should seek permission from the judge to report the case, but only if the family was not opposed to press coverage.

At 5.55pm last Friday the judge told the court he believed the case was of the highest public importance and a landmark case that should be reported.

In agreement with the family, a court order remained preventing the identification of any of the parties.

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