The Times NOVEMBER 27 2000
Parents say hospital chose to let baby die
BY MICHAEL HORSNELL
POLICE are investigating
the death of a baby girl amid allegations
that hospital staff withdrew her treatment against the wishes of
Sadhana Chaudhari, a
science teacher, called in police after her
only child, Sunaina, who had a rare chromosomal abnormality, died
after the withdrawal of treatment. Her death has led to a bitter
dispute with the hospital that has culminated in a decision by
the East London coroner, Dr
Elizabeth Stearns, to hold an inquest.
The hospital did not seek a judicial review before the withdrawal of treatment.
Sunaina was born on May
25 to Mrs Chaudhari and her husband Rajesh,
41, a yoga therapist. She died on October 26, her mother’s fortieth
birthday, as both parents fought in court for their
visiting rights to be restored after a breakdown in their
relationship with doctors.
The child was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children where, according to Mrs Chaudhari, doctors had to be persuaded to operate to ease the baby’s breathing. On June 1 surgeons operated successfully and Sunaina was returned to King George’s a week later, and allowed home on August 1.
But Sunaina contracted a
throat infection, which led to her readmission
to King George’s on October 1. Her medication, Mrs
Chaudhari alleges, was stopped the next day and support for her
Mrs Berry said: “They were planning for Sunaina’s death. Her mother was there 24 hours a day, cat-napping on a sofa bed, providing all the care. If she had not been doing this the baby would have died.”
When she was three weeks old, a doctor allegedly took Mrs Chaudhari to a room where he drew a picture of a weighing scale on a piece of paper, listing the “negative and positive sides” to Sunaina’s case before commenting: “I can tell you, your baby does not want to live — she only ever wanted to be inside you.” That led to a further complaint by Mrs Chaudhari to Peter Murphy, the hospital chief executive.
Then, without warning, an emergency protection order was granted in her absence to the hospital at 11pm on October 20 by a magistrate at Redbridge Family Proceedings Court, restricting the parents from visiting more than four hours a day and banning Mrs Berry completely.
The hospital alleged that
Mrs Chaudhari had interfered with Sunaina’s oxygen supply and
barricaded herself in the room, preventing
access by staff.
She said: “In the few days left of her life she had a different cry as if to say ‘Don’t leave me’. It was as if it had been decided the baby should be left to die.”
On October 26 Mrs Chaudhari was in court applying to have the protection order lifted when David Robinson, clinical director of paediatrics, told her that Sunaina had died. Among the evidence in the case is a letter dated October 20 from two doctors at Great Ormond Street to Dr Robinson at King George’s, who had sought their opinion.
They said that they felt “Sunaina is in the process of dying” and added: “We also feel it may be appropriate to withdraw active treatment and offer palliative care in the hope of improving the quality of life that is left for her to live. We suggest you seek judicial review and would support you strongly in this action.”
The letter was at the centre of Mrs Chaudhari’s objections when she was told that a post-mortem examination would be carried out at Great Ormond Street. “Because of the conflict of interest, based on their clinical assessment of Sunaina before she died, we thought it inappropriate for the post-mortem to take place there,” she said. Her request for an independent pathologist to represent the family during the post-mortem was ignored.
A spokesman for King
George’s said that Sunaina’s “life
expectancy was such that intensive care and resuscitation was not
Copyright 2000 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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