A hospital has asked the High Court for permission to withhold invasive interventions and administer palliative care to a young boy with a catastrophic brain injury, who they believe has little prospect of what they describe as a meaningful recovery.
His parents oppose the orders being sought by the hospital, including one allowing the hospital not to resuscitate him in the event of a cardiac arrest.
Doctors say invasive interventions will not alter his prognosis, may cause him pain and distress and are not ethically justified.
His parents say the hospital's application is unprecedented and too early as the car accident that caused his brain injury happened just a few months ago.
Both sides accept the boy is not brain dead and his parents want the hospital to wait and see how his situation develops.
His parents are estranged and are represented separately.
The court heard the mother believes her son is making a slow improvement and will achieve a recovery "that could be considered a life".
Her solicitor said the court could not assess what exactly a meaningful recovery meant or what constituted a meaningful or worthy life.
Senior counsel for the hospital Conor Dignam said a team of doctors involved in the boy’s treatment supported the orders.
He said the boy had been on a ventilator, but could now breathe unaided, but he was in a persistent state of "disordered consciousness", did not respond to voice or commands and was fed through a nasogastric tube.
Mr Dignam said the medical team believed his situation would not significantly improve. And they believed there were episodes when the boy may be suffering pain and discomfort, triggered by being touched.
The court heard his team believe invasive treatments cause him pain and discomfort and are futile because there was no prospect of meaningful recovery.
The mother’s solicitor said her parental responsibility should not be interfered with by the intervention of another party and the orders sought were unprecedented in this case concerning a living patient, with no diagnosis of a permanent vegetative state or brain death.
The parents want the boy to be cared for in his mother’s home with the necessary assistance or moved to his local hospital.
The hearing about the orders sought by the hospital will continue tomorrow.
Ms Justice Mary Irvine granted an application by the hospital to make the boy a ward of court.
Lawyers for the hospital said the parents loved and cared for their son, but because of the disagreement with doctors about his future care, wardship was an appropriate mechanism for determining where his best interests lay.