The Death of a Holy Innocent: English Lawyer Weighs in on Wrongful Death of Baby Indi Gregory

‘I had Indi baptized to protect her, so she would go to heaven. It gives me peace to know she is in heaven; God is taking care of her. … I will love you always, Indi…’

Terminally ill British infant Indi Gregory's death gripped much of the Catholic community.
Terminally ill British infant Indi Gregory's death gripped much of the Catholic community. (photo: Credit: Christian Concern / Christian Concern)

LONDON — In the early hours of Nov. 13, a fierce storm made landfall in Britain. Driving winds and rain smashed and cut power lines, disrupted travel and resulted in widespread flooding. 

As this was happening, a child lay dying in an English hospital. 

A sick patient in a children’s hospital is rarely a news story. 

When that suffering soul is a few months old, it is even less noteworthy. 

And yet the subsequent death of Indi Gregory made headlines — not just in the United Kingdom, but across the world. 

She was a child who, having exhausted the care of the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), was refused by an English court the possibility of seeking medical treatment abroad. 

Born Feb. 24, Indi Gregory had a rare condition called mitochondrial disease. Her parents tried everything possible to obtain treatment for their daughter’s condition. By the end of Indi’s first summer, however, the medical staff at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Queen’s Medical Centre, in Nottingham, England, where the child was a patient, judged that there was nothing more they could do for her. 

Indi’s parents thought otherwise and tried to convince the hospital authorities to continue treating their daughter. The matter ended up in court. On Oct. 13, perhaps all too predictably, the court sided with the hospital: treatment was to end, ruled not to be in the “best interests” of the child. 

But then something altogether unexpected happened.

The Vatican-run Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome offered to take care of baby Indi. The hospital also offered Indi’s parents something else besides: In the judgment of the Italian doctors, the child’s medical condition was not without hope.

Whereas the British state’s medical system had turned away from the pleas of the child’s parents, Italy embraced them. Remarkably, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni granted Indi emergency Italian citizenship, so as to facilitate the child’s immediate medical transfer to Italy. In addition, an Italian petition, calling on the British government to allow Indi to be transferred to the hospital in Rome, quickly attracted 50,000 signatures.

Pope Francis prayed for Indi and her parents as Italy awaited the arrival of the sick child.

However, an English court blocked Indi’s parents from accepting the Italian offer of help, and, days later, a subsequent appeal against this ruling also failed. The parents’ request to take Indi to Italy in a last desperate bid for her survival was also denied. Curiously, also, the courts had refused permission to let Indi go home to die. 

On Nov. 13, at 1:45 a.m., Indi Gregory died.

Hers was yet another name to add to the list of children — Archie Battersbee, Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans — who had made headlines for the same sad reason. English courts denied all of these children’s parents the right to decide on a course of medical treatment for their sick children. 

This begs one simple question: Why? 

What would it have cost the British state to allow a sick child to leave its jurisdiction for treatment abroad? 

James Bogle is a Catholic layman and an English barrister (trial attorney) of 30 years. He has worked on cases similar to Indi Gregory’s. 

Did the outcome in the Gregory case surprise him? “Yes and No,” he replies. “’Yes,’ because it was not necessary. ‘No,’  because the ruling fits in with the approach that now prevails in the NHS and the courts in such cases.” 

Bogle goes on to outline what he considers to be troubling aspects to this latest case. For example, there was no mitochondrial disease expert before the court, while, at the same time, the court refused permission for two authorities on this rare disease, both of whom were professors of pediatric neurology, to argue on behalf of Indi’s parents. Bogle points out: “Both neurologists and experts in mitochondrial disease (whom the court refused to listen to) disagreed with the [hospital] trust’s withdrawal of treatment. One of them expressly stated that, from a neurological point of view, there was nothing to prevent Indi from having a reasonable quality of life.” 

Furthermore, Bogle is confident that the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital “was acting professionally and properly when they opposed the NHS clinicians’ assessment and gave sound and medically rational reasons why they were prepared to treat Indi.” Therefore, he can only but conclude that the opposition of the NHS to Indi being treated by clinicians at the Rome hospital was “rather less than rational.” 

Bogle finds it hard to avoid the conclusion that the British state, through the courts, “acts in cases such as this with a moral compass that judges some lives less valuable than others.” When asked what this indicates about the moral state or, more precisely, the spiritual state of Britain today, he reckons that Indi’s case, and others like it, “indicate that we are in an increasingly disturbing place.” 

The NHS is regularly lauded and praised by U.K. politicians. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, British citizens were requested by the government to stand outside their homes to applaud the NHS and its workers. Established after the Second World War, the NHS was a product of the socialist welfare state. Its stated aim for the nation it served was, and still is, that all citizens receive the benefit of state aid, the motto of which was summed up as: “from the cradle to the grave.” 

With regard to the Indi Gregory case, however, this motto looks not so much a promise of care as a threat. 

Indi Gregory was buried on Dec. 1, after a Catholic funeral service at Nottingham Cathedral. 

In an earlier interview with the Italian press, the child’s father, Dean Gregory, who is not Catholic, had told reporters that it was his experience of English courts in relation to his daughter’s health care that had prompted him to have his baby baptized  He had sensed the presence of evil in the court room: “It felt like I had been dragged to hell. … It was like the devil was there.” And, in turn, this led to the logical conclusion: “If there’s a devil, then God must exist. … And I want Indi to go to heaven.”  

On a cold winter’s day in England, as his baby daughter was laid to rest, her father spoke the following words:

“My greatest comfort at this difficult time is knowing where Indi is and with Whom she is now. I had Indi baptized to protect her, so she would go to heaven. It gives me peace to know she is in heaven; God is taking care of her. … I will love you always, Indi.”