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Italy grants citizenship to a terminally ill British baby after a Vatican hospital offers her care

ROME (AP) — An 8-month-old terminally ill British girl was granted Italian citizenship Monday after a court in Britain upheld rulings authorizing the withdrawal of life-supporting invasive treatment.

Baby Indi Gregory’s situation is the latest in a series of cases in Britain in which doctors and parents have sparred over the treatment of terminally ill children.

The child’s family hopes the Italian government’s decision will add heft to their fight to allow her to be transferred to Italy. A private online hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in which a British judge is scheduled to consider issues relating to the baby’s care. The judge ruled last week that the baby could not be moved to Italy.

The Vatican’s pediatric hospital, Bambino Gesu, in Rome has offered to care for Indi Gregory, and the Italian government said it would pay for any treatment “that is deemed necessary” in Italy.

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Italy’s Cabinet, citing “preeminent humanitarian values,” briefly met Monday for the sole purpose of granting the child citizenship.

“They say there isn’t much hope for little Indi, but until the very end, I’ll do what I can to defend her life,’’ Premier Giorgia Meloni said in a post on Facebook. “And to defend the right of her mamma and papa to do all that they can for her.”

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Under British law, the primary issue in such cases is whether a proposed treatment is in the best interests of the child. Judges have repeatedly upheld doctors’ decisions to end life support even when that conflicts with the parents’ wishes.

Indi has a rare metabolic disorder known as mitochondrial disease, which means her cells aren’t able to produce enough energy to operate properly. The fatal disease has caused progressive brain damage, leaving her totally dependent on life support, according to evidence presented to the High Court in London.

The campaign group Christian Concern, which is supporting the parents, said that during Tuesday’s online hearing Justice Robert Peel would consider issues relating to whether doctors would withdraw life-support treatment.

On Thursday, Peel rejected an appeal from Indi’s father that sought permission for her to be transferred to the Vatican’s pediatric hospital for further treatment.

Peel ruled that nothing had changed since an earlier ruling that authorized the withdrawal of life-supporting invasive treatment. The judge said his decision was based on findings that Indi had little awareness of what was going on around her and an “extremely limited quality of life,” combined with evidence that she experienced frequent pain as a result of her treatment.

While a letter from the Vatican hospital provided little detail about the proposed treatment for Indi, the judge said it was likely to require further invasive treatment and there was no evidence that experimental treatments would improve her quality of life. In addition, it is possible that transferring Indi to Rome would increase her “distress and suffering,” Peel said.

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“I am satisfied that the proposal for a transfer to Rome would not be in IG’s best interests,” Peel wrote in his decision.