Baby K was born on 22 July 2017 with cortical dysplasia in the left hemisphere of his brain. As a consequence, K suffers from a form of epilepsy that is unresponsive to medication. He has spent 10 of his 12 months of life in Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane due to his severe and frequent seizures.

K has undergone various treatments, including anticonvulsive drugs, a trial of cannabis oil and ketogenic diet, which have proved largely ineffective. Additionally, he has also undergone traditional healing methods from his parents’ home country including holy water, prayers by a monk and traditional ceremonies. Although noted to have cultural and religious importance, these traditional remedies have proved ineffectual.

K’s seizures are felt only on the left side of his brain, but are beginning to affect the right side of his brain which currently remains intact. K has already suffered from developmental delay and the medical evidence suggests that, without surgical intervention, he will never be able to walk or converse.

Senior neurologists at the Hospital consider that K’s best chance of functional survival is to perform a left hemispherotomy (involving a disconnection of his right and left hemispheres to preserve the undamaged side and prevent or substantially reduce his constant seizures). His parents refused consent, in Atkinson J’s view, “not because they do not love their baby – they clearly do – but because they retain hope that traditional remedies might provide what might be described as a miracle cure”.

In light of the medical evidence, the Court exercised its parens patriae jurisdiction to act in the child’s best interest to authorise the performance of a hemispheretomy and the associated intervention, care and treatment. The operation was held to provide K with the best chance for him to reach his potential.

To read the decision in Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service v AT & Anor [2018] QSC 147, click here.