Devastated single mother to appeal after judge says girl can be allowed to die

Brian Farmer, PA
·3-min read

A single mother has told of her devastation after a High Court judge ruled that her brain-damaged daughter should be allowed to die.

Mr Justice Poole decided on Friday that specialists treating five-year-old Pippa Knight, who has a rare condition, can lawfully stop providing life-support treatment.

Pippa’s mother, Paula Parfitt, 41, of Strood, Kent, now wants Court of Appeal judges to consider the case.

The judge said treatment should continue for a short period to give Ms Parfitt, who is receiving legal aid, time to mount an appeal bid.

He described the case as “heart-rending”.

Pippa Knight legal case
Pippa Knight has a rare condition and is in a vegetative state (Sinclairslaw/PA)

Pippa was born in April 2015 and initially developed normally, but in December 2016 she became unwell and began to suffer seizures, the judge heard.

Specialists diagnosed acute necrotising encephalopathy.

The judge was told that the youngster is now in a vegetative state and has no awareness.

Specialists treating Pippa at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London said life-support treatment should end.

Hospital bosses had asked Mr Justice Poole to rule that ending treatment, and allowing Pippa to die, would be lawful and in her best interests.

Ms Parfitt, who told the court that Pippa’s father is dead, disagreed.

She wants her daughter to be placed on a portable ventilator and allowed home, and wanted the judge to authorise a home-care trial.

But Mr Justice Poole, who heard evidence at a trial in the Family Division of the High Court in London in December, ruled against her.

“I am devastated,” said Ms Parfitt after Mr Justice Poole’s ruling.

“I will be seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

“I want Pippa to have every possible chance to come home and be with her family.”

Pippa Knight legal case
Paula Parfitt wants her five-year-old daughter, Pippa Knight, to be cared for at home (Sinclairslaw/PA)

She said evidence shows that Pippa is not in pain and two independent medical experts believe home care is worth trying.

“I don’t understand why the hospital and the court wouldn’t let me find out whether Pippa could come home to be cared for with all her family around her, when two independent doctors from reputable hospitals in England both said that they thought this was worth trying,” she said.

“Instead, the court has decided that all Pippa’s treatment should be withdrawn so that she dies.”

Mr Justice Poole paid tribute to tribute to Ms Parfitt’s resilience and devotion.

“Ms Parfitt has fought as hard for Pippa as any parent could,” he said.

“Responsibility for the decisions in this case lies with the court, not with her.

“My conclusion is that continued mechanical ventilation is contrary to Pippa’s best interests.”

He said he could not “give weight” to Ms Parfitt’s view that home care would improve Pippa’s condition.

The judge said that view is “at odds” with the unanimous view of the clinicians and medical experts.

“It is agreed by all the medical witnesses that Pippa has no conscious awareness of her environment or interactions with others,” he said.

“Therefore, there would be no benefit to her from being in a home bedroom as opposed to a hospital unit.

“Family members may be able to spend more time with her at home in a more peaceful and welcoming environment, but she would not be aware of their visits or of the benefit to others.

“She would not be aware of any of the changes in her environment or in her care regime.”