A culture of death has taken over our judicial system and NHS, says Andrea Williams. Parents must be free to get their children the medical help they need

Picture the scene: a man is drowning in the sea.

A lifeguard spots him and responds urgently to try to save him. But as the lifeguard is about to run into the water, another lifeguard pulls him back: “He is too far gone – it’ll be futile to try to save him. Even if you keep him alive, he’ll be damaged for the rest of his life. His quality of life will be so far diminished, it won’t be worth living. If you pull him out and perform CPR, it’ll be uncomfortable – you might break his ribs.”

A High Court judge is standing by. He orders that the drowning man should be left to die and that the first lifeguard should be prevented from diving in.

This scenario sounds implausible and heartless. Yet something very similar is happening now in the case of Indi Gregory.

Best interests

Indi is an 8-month-old girl with a mitochondrial disorder. Today, a High Court judge ruled that Indi would not be allowed to travel to Italy to receive first class treatment, for free, at Bambino Gesù, a paediatric hospital in Rome.

The state’s role is not to prevent parents from getting their child the medical help they need

The NHS, backed by the judge, claims that it’s in Indi’s “best interests” to die by her life support being removed. Her parents, Dean and Claire, are determined to give her a better chance at life by continuing treatment. At the Christian Legal Centre, we’re doing everything we can to make that a reality.

But it’s an uphill battle.

As I write, lawyers are urgently preparing and filing a legal appeal to let Indi be released. Please pray that they will be successful.

Like the first lifeguard in the story, experts at Bambino Gesù are ready to help Indi. They have a credible plan to improve Indi’s chances and quality of life. They are offering to treat her for free. An air ambulance is ready in principle to look after Indi and transport her to Italy.

But against Indi’s parents’ wishes, she is being held captive.

This is not about NHS resources. It is not about the doctors and nurses at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust who have been treating her. It is not about ‘prolonging death’ as though there is no hope for improvement. It is about Indi’s life and her parents’ freedom to decide who should treat her and where.

An enforced death

There may not yet be police surrounding Indi’s hospital room, stopping her being removed and taken to a waiting ambulance – which happened in a similar, previous case. But the principle is the same: her death is being enforced by the NHS and our legal system.

Gone is the principle of patient (and parental) autonomy. Gone is the principle that life is better than death. Instead, a judge decides the fate of this beautiful, precious girl.

As Christians, we believe in a hope beyond death. But that doesn’t excuse us from standing with Dean and Claire for Indi’s right to life now.

We need reform. We need transparency in courts so that these stories can be told properly and the decisions of judges properly scrutinised. We need families to be free to appoint alternative doctors and medical experts with equal access to the patient’s records. We need proper mediation at the earliest stage rather than parents being dragged into unfamiliar court settings, facing down taxpayer-funded legal teams.

A life worth living

We have pressed for these changes and more in our response to the recent Nuffield review, despite its astonishing links to Compassion in Dying, a pro-assisted suicide campaign group.

Be clear: the principle is the same with Indi as with assisted suicide and euthanasia. We are not free to decide which lives are worth living. The state’s role is to punish evildoers (Romans 13:4), not to prevent parents from getting their child the medical help they need. The logic is the same with abortions for disabilities – which in the UK are allowed up until birth.

Indi’s death is being enforced by the NHS and our legal system

Our nation has a wonderful Christian heritage. So many of our institutions, including our legal system, have been affected profoundly (and often explicitly) by Christian principles. When I trained to be a barrister, I never expected to have to criticise senior judges or call for such wholesale reform.

But in recent years, a culture of death has taken over. It is deeply shocking to see judges rule, time after time, that it is in someone’s “best interests” to die.

No one knows for sure what will happen to Indi if treatment is continued. It may be unsuccessful. Equally, the skill of doctors in Italy, experimental trials and treatments or the miraculous intervention of God may give Indi much longer, and some quality of life.

Indi is made in God’s image, just like you and me. She may never be capable of having a ‘normal’ life, but she is capable of being loved. Her parents and siblings clearly love her; we should stand with them and Indi with the practical help they need and in prayer.