22nd August 2005
by LAURA PEEK and CHARLOTTE GILL, Daily Mail
Doctors who won the legal right to let a gravely-ill baby die have written to her parents admitting that her condition is improving.
They concede that 22-month-old Charlotte Wyatt has made 'remarkable progress' since the High Court battle began over her hospital treatment.
Armed with this information, her parents Darren and Debbie will go to the Court of Appeal on Thursday hoping to overturn the court order giving doctors permission to withhold lifesaving treatment if she stops breathing.
At a hearing last October, medical experts argued that putting Charlotte on a ventilator would be 'intolerable' to her.
They told the court that it was 'highly unlikely' Charlotte, who has never left hospital, would survive the winter.
But almost a year later she is still alive.
Mrs Wyatt, 24, from Portsmouth, said: "When the court made that ruling they said they would not resuscitate her because of her quality of life. But now her quality of life has improved so we want them to lift the order.
"Charlotte can go outside for 40 minutes in the hospital grounds with an oxygen mask.
"She can see and hear, and she knows who Darren and I are."
A letter sent to Charlotte's parents, and seen by the Daily Mail, admits staff have been "encouraged by her remarkable progress to date".
But the letter, dated August 11, insists there is "no change in her underlying condition".
The hospital will oppose the Wyatts' application to lift the order on Thursday. A spokesman said:
'The clinical opinion of the doctors has not changed since the original court case.'
Charlotte has severe brain damage after being born three months prematurely and remains gravely ill at St Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth.
But in March a judge was presented with the findings of six independent experts who said she shows 'no evidence' of being in pain, and is aware, alert, active and responsive.
Their report was commissioned by solicitors acting for the Wyatts. The couple regard the ruling as a 'death sentence' hanging over their daughter.
Mr Wyatt, 33, said yesterday: "She's smiling and looking around. You can see she's enjoying life."
However, all the doctors agree that if Charlotte does survive she will be severely disabled.
Her brain has not developed and she is likely to be fully dependent on others for feeding, washing and even sitting or standing up.
The couple, who are devout Christians, also have sons Daniel, three, and nine-month-old David. Mrs Wyatt is 21 weeks pregnant with their fourth child.
Charlotte was born weighing only 1lb and was no longer than a ballpoint pen. She has been revived three times, most recently in July last year.
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust then said it was no longer in her interests to ventilate her if she became critically ill.
Doctors went to the High Court in October against her parents' wishes to obtain a legal declaration that they could refuse to revive her again.
They said she would probably die over the next few months, but she has defied expectations.
In his judgment last October, Mr Justice Hedley said ventilation was not in Charlotte's best interests.
Instead she should be allowed "to meet her end... in the TLC of those who love her most".
In April, the Wyatts lost a High Court attempt to have the order lifted and they are appealing against that decision on Thursday.
©2005 Associated New Media