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In the News

Human Rights Law and Law and Morality – Legal Challenges to save Indi Gregory

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

10th December 2023

Nottingham University Trust made a “best interests” application in October 2023 to the High Court that their treatment to baby Indi Gregory and life support should be removed. She suffers from the genetic condition mitochondrial disease which limits the generation of energy in the body. Currently at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham the parents of Indi vehemently denied that her treatment should be removed, as they responded that she is receptive to their touch and should receive help to sustain her life.

After this decision from Mr Justice Robert Peel at the High Court on 13 October the parents sought permission to appeal the decision at the Court of Appeal on 23 October on the following grounds:

  1. Insufficient evidence was provided at the original hearing, as the medical trust had been permitted to provide expert evidence, but the parents were not
  2. Key medical evidence was not submitted
  3. Arguments were made that by not providing treatment this unlawfully discriminating against a disability as an incurable medical conditions such as mitochondrial disease could be seen to be akin to a disability

However Lady Justice Eleanor King refused the parents permission to appeal, stating that no further evidence was required at the High Court.

Citing sections of the European Convention on Human Right the parents then turned to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg with an application asking for an interim measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, to prevent the withdrawal of Indi’s life support. Considered on 26 October the court decided they would not make any indication to the Government of the United Kingdom.

Crushed by this Indi’s parents made a further application to have her taken to Italy for specialist treatment from the Bambino Gesu Paediatrics Hospital in Rome, who believe her condition is treatable. Funded by the Italian government and with an air ambulance crew on hand, they need to conduct a risk assessment in conjunction with the hospital, who are currently refusing to facilitate this. The legal team representing the interests of Indi have stated that the refusal to assist contradicts with Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights. However Mr Justice Robert Peel did not concur, as he found there to be no material change of circumstances or other reason to reconsider his original decision and therefore dismissed their application to have her transferred to Italy.

Questions to consider

  • Look at the appeal structure in England and Wales and make a flow diagram of how a case concerning Human Rights can be appealed at multiple stages.
  • The cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans were similar, research how these cases were appealed in the courts and the outcome for both cases.
  • How does this affect Human Rights and which parts of the ECHR are concerned?
  • How does this case link with the idea of law and morality? Should the law intervene here? Can you relate any theories of morality to this case?

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

Gemma is an experienced Law teacher and examiner.

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