The French Council of State rejected an appeal from Marseilles Public Hospital’s medical team, thus upholding the injunction to continue life-prolonging treatment for 16-month-old baby Marwa, who has been hospitalized here since September 2016, after an aggressive enterovirus attacked her nervous system.
As this is the final ruling no other appeal can be filed.
On February 9, the Public Health Physicians at the Marseilles Hospital had filed an appeal with the Council of State following the first verdict delivered 2 days earlier when the Administrative Court had ordered the Timone hospital to continue health care for baby Marwa (including respirator and artificial feeding).
Considering the baby’s neurological lesions to be irremediable, the doctors had made a collective and unanimous decision on November 4, 2016 to stop her treatment and switch off the life-supporting respirator. They esteemed it would be hard to evaluate her state of consciousness but most likely it had been severely affected.
According to the judge for the Council of State, continuing her treatment does not constitute “unreasonable therapeutic obstinacy”, a condition which would legally justify stopping treatment. His decision was based on two criteria:
- “some signs of improvement had been observed” although “future prognosis is still uncertain.” And as the Administrative Court in Marseilles had remarked: the judge, as President of the Court, declared that the decision to stop treatment had been taken too prematurely to ascertain the extent of the neurological damage.
- « respecting the parents’ opinion is of particular importance », “since the child is incapable of expressing her decision”. And the parents are adamantly determined to continue treatment for their child.
Even if little Marwa will most likely remain severely handicapped, the parents are delighted with the court’s decision: “it is a big relief for the whole family”. The parents initiated the complaint with the Marseilles Administrative Court on November 9, 2016 when the medical team decided to stop treatment.
They also launched a petition (“Never without Marwa”) which already has over 287,360 signatures requesting their daughter be given « a chance to live ».
This marks the second time that the State Council has ruled on this type of case. In June 2014 for the Vincent Lambert case, the judge declared that the decision made on January 11, 2014 to “stop artificial feeding for Mr. Vincent Lambert was not illegal”. The council based its decision on the experts’ conclusions attesting to the patient’s deteriorating state of consciousness, his irreversible cerebral lesions, and his poor clinical prognosis. The patient’s wife testified, with his brother confirming, that Vincent Lambert had previously expressed the wish not to be kept alive artificially if ever he should become severely dependent.