'Truly compassionate society protects its most vulnerable,' U.K. bishops say after baby's death

NOTTINGHAM, England (OSV News) -- British bishops expressed their condolences to Dean and Claire Gregory, parents of 8-month-old Indi, who died Nov. 13 after neither a court battle nor Italian citizenship granted to the infant prevented the British courts from halting her life support.

Following the death of baby Indi, Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham and Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster, who is the lead bishop for life issues, wrote in a statement that they learned about the death of the child with "deep sadness," assuring the parents "of our prayers and those of all the Catholic Community, including Pope Francis, at this sad time."

“As a baptized child of God, we believe that she will now share in the joy of heaven after her short life which brought deep joy to her parents who loved and protected her as a precious gift of God," the bishops said.

The father of the girl said earlier that he was not religious, but he had chosen to have his child baptized Sept. 23 after feeling the "pull of hell" in their court battle to extend her life. Indi died at 1:45 a.m. U.K. time Nov. 13.

In a statement, Indi's father, Dean Gregory, said he and his wife, Claire, "are angry, heartbroken and ashamed. The NHS (National Health Service) and the Courts not only took away her chance to live a longer life, but they also took away Indi's dignity to pass away in the family home where she belonged."

In their statement Bishop McKinney and Bishop Sherrington thanked “all who worked so tirelessly to care for her” at the Queen’s Medical Center in Nottingham and at the hospice where she died.

They added that the legal battle between the NHS Trust and her parents showed again "the need for greater weight to be given to the parental voice in these complex and sensitive cases."

"A simple way to begin to remedy this," the bishops said, " would be to amend the Health and Care Act 2022 by reintroducing Baroness Ilora Finlay's amendment on 'Dispute resolution in children’s palliative care' formulated after the death of Charlie Gard," they said, recalling a similar case of a child whose life support was halted because of the court ruling in 2017.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Center, an advocacy group that supported Indi's parents, said Nov. 13, "Our hearts are broken for Dean and Claire and their family. Please hold them in your prayers at this time."

At the Christian Legal Center, she said, "We have given our all, working day and night to support Indi's parents in their weeks, days and hours of need as they sought to protect their daughter and pursue justice."

"We have also worked to make known how important it is to uphold laws that wholly protect life and the rights of parents in the lives of their children. Doctors cannot be compelled to treat a patient against their conscience, but neither should they be the ones to prevent parents who secure specialist medical treatment for their child elsewhere from accessing that help," Williams said.

"Justice is done in the light and a truly compassionate society protects its most vulnerable," she emphasized.

The bishops added that they will "continue to contribute to wider discussions on questions of when treatment becomes disproportionate to any possible benefit and the duty of the continuation of basic care, including assisted nutrition and hydration, to protect the good of every child."