Friday, October 07, 2022

That’s why the Archie case in Switzerland is unlikely

4-week-old Mary, born at 29 weeks pregnant and weighing 830 g, lives in an incubator in the premature baby ward at the Evangelical Hospital in Hamm (North Rhine-Westphalia) on 17 November 2017.  Mother Janine Shonis stands next to the incubator and holds her hand over the baby.  (Keystone/DPA/Guido Kirchner)
An incubator protects a premature baby from natural environmental conditions that a premature baby cannot yet deal with. (icon picture)

Keystone/DPA/Guido Kirchner

In Great Britain, parents regularly fight against doctors for lifesaving measures for sick children. A law professor explains why such scenarios are unusual in Switzerland.

Parents fought “to the bitter end” for the life of their son Archie. The 12-year-old has been in a coma in a London hospital since April due to severe brain injuries.

Doctors have been trying to phase out lifesaving measures for months, with parents fighting against it every time – and lost. Yesterday, the last, highest official also favored the treating doctors. Archie will die. The reason given is that it is in the interest of the boy. It marks the end of his life.

Swiss parents never went to federal court

A UK court deciding the fate of a critically ill child is no exception. In recent years, for example, the cases of Alfie Evans and Charlie Gard have made headlines. In both cases the parents fought in court against the doctor’s recommendation to end lifesaving measures.

Is such a scenario even possible in Switzerland? “It would be unusual, but it cannot be ruled out,” says Regina E. Abbey-Muller, professor of private law at the University of Lucerne. Going to court is basically open to everyone if there is a “significant disagreement” between the medical profession and the patient – or in this case the parent who is authorized to represent them.

However, he is not aware of any comparable cases that have been brought before a federal court.

,If the treatment is hopeless, you have no right to it.,

That's why the Archie case in Switzerland is unlikely

Regina Abbey-Muller

private law professor

But what rights do the parents of a sick child have in Switzerland? “The decision-making authority on which treatment is used basically rests with the parent,” says Abby-Muller. If there are different therapy options, parents decide which will be used. But there are limits to the decision-making authority: on the one hand, the parent has to act in the best interest of the child, on the other hand, they can only request treatment for their child that also makes sense from a medical point of view. Is. ,

“If the treatment is hopeless, you have no right to.” This applies in principle, not just at the end of life: a person with a viral cold may not ask for an antibiotic. Such treatments will also not be covered by health insurance.

Switzerland has the necessary time and resources

In the Archie case, doctors concluded that the treatments were futile—they diagnosed brain death. But the parents doubt that all the exams were done perfectly. What options would you have in Switzerland in this matter? Parents can try to get a super-provisional remedy from the court to gain more time for further investigation, says Abby-Muller.

This country has clear guidelines regarding the diagnosis of brain death. If doctors make a diagnosis based on these criteria, from a legal point of view they can immediately end life-sustaining measures without parental consent. In reality, though, this is rarely the case: “Removing devices is certainly very emotional,” with resources and time permitting, doctors usually leaving the devices on so parents can properly say goodbye.

However, in Great Britain, it is usually lacking: time and resources. The UK health service is under severe financial pressure and has a tendency to withdraw life support too soon. But in the Archie case, the courts are unanimous: The medical profession made the right decision.

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