An elderly woman, ‘P’, will have her life-sustaining treatment stopped after a judgment made by Mr Justice Hayden deemed that P would have felt the “minimally conscious” condition she has been in following a fall in 2016, to be a “travesty of life.” P is currently in the care of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, who asked for the hearing to take place in order to decide whether they should continue feeding P through a tube.
This judgment resolves a long standing dispute between P’s siblings and her children. Her sisters said to stop P’s life-sustaining treatment would be wrong; since they believed over time she would improve. One also felt that the responsibility for the decision should reside with medical professionals when it comes to end-to-life cases, such as this.
P’s daughters and partner felt sustaining her life in this way was going against her wishes and ultimately her best interests. Evidence was presented in support of this, in the form of an email sent by P years prior to the accident which paralysed her. The email P sent to her daughter sees her admit fear of ever being left in a minimally conscious condition.
P referred to her father’s final years, “…his last years were…all the sadder as he had such an incredible talent.” She admits she was still “haunted” by that time.
The Court of Protection exists to protect the rights of individuals who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions, where a dispute into their care arises. In this case, Mr Justice Hayden believes P’s voice was revived through the evidence submitted by her family members as part of the hearing, enabling him to make a more informed decision into the best course of action. He believes that the decision to remove the feeding tube and allow P to live out her remaining days in a hospice would be what she would want.
In light of this case, it is clear that the judgment was made to ease the strain put on the family who have been dealing with the prospect of losing their loved one to a condition which medical professionals have been unable change. For a year, P’s condition has not improved and the feeding tube has been keeping her alive.
This comes after a ruling was made in September changing the way end-to-life cases are considered; where previously a judge would need to approve, even when both medical professionals and family members agree, end-to-life cases will now only go to court if there is a dispute present.
Jemma Garside is a Community Care Director at Duncan Lewis Solicitors. She specialises in all areas of Community Care law and matters under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in relation to Court of Protection proceedings. She states:
“Judge Hayden had to carry out a finely balanced exercise taking into account previously expressed wishes and feelings, family views, P’s current quality of life alongside the views of the medical experts in order to establish a decision in her best interests. He has carried out this exercise with great care and consideration.
"It is right that cases such as this are given a high level of scrutiny as they deal with such sensitive human rights issues. We anticipate that the legal principles will continue to evolve but human rights and best interests must always be at the core of any decision.”
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