Italian consul fights to save UK girl's life after judge orders removal of life support
NOTTINGHAM, England (OSV News) -- An appeal has been filed challenging a Nov. 8 ruling by a British judge that Indi Gregory's life support must be removed at the Queen's Medical Center in Nottingham or a hospice and not at home, contrary to the wishes of her parents and despite the Italian government granting her citizenship and offering to further care for her at the country's own cost.
Justice Robert Peel ruled that life support would be removed from the 8-month-old at 2 p.m. London time (9 a.m. EST) Nov. 9.
With the clock ticking Indi Gregory's Italian guardian has made an urgent appeal to the U.K. High Court calling on Peel to cede jurisdiction of the case to him under Article 9(2) of the 1996 Hague Convention: "Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children."
Italian consul Matteo Corradini, in his capacity as guardianship judge for the 8-month-old, made the appeal early Nov. 9. Such a development has never happened before in an end-of-life case involving a child in the U.K.
Under Peel's order, doctors already were preparing to remove Indi's life support, subject to an appeal over the location of the withdrawal. Lawyers were waiting to hear if the Court of Appeal will hear the case and if, therefore, the stay on life support will be extended beyond 2 p.m.
Indi suffers from a rare metabolic disorder known as mitochondrial disease, and her family, supported by the Christian Legal Center, had earlier appealed the judge's ruling.
According to Christian Concern, a nonprofit advocacy group working with the family which includes the legal center, said that in the lead up to the Peel ruling, National Health Service officials threatened to remove life support Nov. 9 without family members present.
Indi's father, Dean Gregory, was not at the hospital at the time of the officials' threat and said he felt like he was going to have a heart attack when he was informed, according to Christian Concern.
"I have had to face repeated threats from the hospital trying to intimidate me and speed up Indi's death, even when there are outstanding court orders in place," he said. "There does not appear to be any care or compassion, only cruelty toward us as a family."
The judgment has been made despite the Italian government in a dramatic move granting Indi citizenship Nov. 8 and issuing emergency measures Nov. 9 authorizing her to be transferred to the Vatican's Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in Rome for specialist treatment.
Peel held an emergency online hearing Nov. 7 to resolve the dispute over where life support would be removed.
The NHS officials' threat that day to end Indi's life support at the hospital came as domestic legal remedies were exhausted and the legal stay was expiring.
But this would have gone against a court-approved care plan that said the decision rested with the parents.
The Compassionate Care Plan prepared by the Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust said:
"Parents should be supported to decide where compassionate care would be best delivered. Options include a hospice, the hospital, or home. Each of these options has benefits, and planning would be specific to her (Indi's) location."
Furthermore in his High Court judgment of Oct. 13, Peel also stated in paragraph 44 that the implementation of the order and the care plan "can take place at home or at a hospice, as the parents may elect."
Indi's parents had asked that extubating their child take place at home, but clinicians had refused.
Peel's two previous High Court judgments blocked Indi's transfer to Italy for treatment by specialist and ruled that it is in her "best interests" to die.
The latest ruling comes after the Bambino Gesù hospital had agreed to accept Indi for treatment and to carry out the right ventricular outflow tract stent procedure that has been put forward by medical experts. The Italian government has offered to fund the treatment at no cost to the NHS or U.K. taxpayer.
NHS officials and U.K. courts, however, have refused to allow the move or work on a risk assessment with a specialist air-ambulance service.
On Nov. 6 after granting Indi citizenship, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in a statement, "They say there isn't much hope for little Indi, but until the end I will do what I can to defend her life. And to defend the right of her mom and dad to do all they can for her." She issued the statement Nov. 6 on X, formerly Twitter.
Corradini, as the 8-month-old's guardianship judge, issued an emergency measure Nov. 8 recognizing the authority of the Italian courts in this case.
The measure issued assumes protection of Indi and authorizes the immediate transfer of Indi to the Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome.
The measure also authorizes adoption of the Italian hospital specialists' treatment plan and appointed its general manager, Antonio Perno, as Indi's guardian.
The Italian consul in Manchester also has power under Italian law to operate as a judge and can issue emergency measures.
"For the hospital and the U.K. courts to simply ignore the offer from the Italian government is disgraceful," Indi's father said.
"I appeal to the British government to allow Indi to come to Italy before it is too late," he said. "As a father I have never asked or begged for anything in my life, but I am now begging the British government to please help prevent our daughter's life from being taken away."