14:34, December 11 76 0 theguardian.com

2017-12-11 14:34:03
NHS trust treating brain-damaged boy gets anonymity over abuse fears

Bosses at an NHS hospital trust who wanted to stop providing life-support treatment to a brain-damaged baby boy recently won an anonymity fight after telling a high court judge that medics might be harassed by members of the public.

They feared a repeat of the abuse that staff at Great Ormond Street hospital in London received this year after a judge ruled that 11-month-old Charlie Gard should be allowed to die.

Their lawyers told Mr Justice Moor that publication of the trust’s name might also create an information jigsaw that could lead to the three-week-old baby being identified.

Media representatives argued that the public had a right to know the identity of hospital authorities asking judges to make such life-and-death decisions, but Moor ruled in favour of the trust bosses.

He gave permission for doctors to stop providing life-support treatment and said the trust, which had responsibility for the baby’s care, could be referred to only as “an NHS trust in the Midlands” in any media reports.

The judge, who analysed the case at a private hearing in the family division of the high court in London on 23 November, said he was satisfied there was a “remote” chance of staff being harassed and there was a chance of jigsaw identification of the boy.

He said journalists could report his decisions.

The trust said the boy was born prematurely and suffered severe brain damage as a result of being deprived of oxygen at birth.

David Lock QC, who led the trust’s legal team, said a number of specialists had examined the boy and all agreed that it was in his best interests if life-support treatment ended. A guardian appointed by the judge to independently represent the boy agreed.

The boy’s mother said she could not give her consent to treatment being withdrawn but did not “actively oppose” the trust’s application. His father was separated from his mother and did not have parental responsibility for him.

A trust director told the judge of his concerns about staff being harassed if the trust’s identity was revealed in media reports. He said bosses were not trying to prevent proper scrutiny of the conduct of clinicians.

He said “these type of cases” raised “intense emotions” among people unconnected with day-to-day care. He said Great Ormond Street staff had been subjected to “very significant harassment” as a result of the Charlie Gard case.

“I am anxious to do everything I can to ensure that the very difficult conditions in which our staff are presently operating are not made worse by harassment from members of the public who only learn about the details of the case from the newspapers and respond in a wholly inappropriate manner,” he said.

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