An 18-year-old boy at the centre of a right-to-die court case was allowed to die by doctors who allegedly placed a “do not resuscitate” in case of heart attack note on his medical records without advising his parents.
Alex Elliott’s mother Olya and father Brian had fought for their son – who was seriously ill with cancer – to be treated.
However, on Thursday (18/06/15) Alex’s parents learned of the decision that that he be allowed to die by doctors treating him, without his mother Olya and father Brian being told because of fears there might be a confrontation over the decision to allow Alex to die.
The Daily Mail reports that in February, a Court of Protection judge gave doctors permission to stop treating Alex with chemotherapy, after they claimed he had two weeks to live.
Olya and Brian Elliott had protested against the decision – Alex went on to defy medical opinion by surviving for a further four months. Alex died on Thursday from a brain tumour.
The Elliotts’ legal battle to continue treatment for Alex involves the same NHS trust in Southampton at the centre of a storm over five-year-old Ashya King, who was also being treated for a brain tumour. His parents sparked a manhunt across Europe when they removed him from the hospital without advising medical staff and took him to Prague for revolutionary proton beam therapy – which treats tumours without harming surrounding tissue. It is reported that Ashya has made a good recovery after treatment.
Alex had been diagnosed with a brain tumour on his optic nerve before his first birthday.
He had been treated at several hospitals, including Southampton Children's Hospital.
Since their son’s death last week, Olya and Brian Elliott have told the Daily Mail that they were “humiliated” when medical staff ignored their wishes that their son's treatment be continued – and doctors also held secret meetings to make decisions about Alex’s care, as well as threatening to “eject” them from hospital if they contested decisions about his treatment.
Mr Elliott had described the breakdown in relations between the family and doctors caring for their son in Court of Protection statements.
Mrs Elliott said that their son’s life had been “shortened” by the decision of medical staff treating him – and alleges that evidence given to judges by Alex’s doctors in the Court of Protection was “misleading”
Mrs Elliott said:
“Ashya's parents accused the hospital of trying to kill their son. I understand exactly what they meant.”
Her husband alleges surgeon Robert Wheeler wrote an email placed in their son’s medical notes before the Court of Protection heard the case for medical treatment to be withdrawn, and which reads:
“There is a presumption that we will discuss resuscitation plans with adults or their relatives, based on very recent case law in England.
“But in this case, since we believe that discussion with parents over resuscitation will be unproductive and inflammatory; and there is a tangible risk to staff and bystanders that the parents’ distress may lead to violent confrontation…we have therefore taken the unusual clinical decision that we will not consult the parents over this decision, and not disclose our plan not to resuscitate.
“We are aware of the gravity of this decision not to consult, and regret it is necessary, but having weighed up the conflicting arguments, have agreed that this is the correct clinical approach.”
Mrs Elliott added:
“Our son could have lived for longer – for much, much longer – if the doctors who treated him had really wanted him to pull through.
“We had to fight the system every time we asked for any treatment for him – even to ask for antibiotics to fight an infection. They made so many mistakes, but they always insisted they were right – they never admitted mistakes, they never said sorry.”
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said judges supported the medical view that resuscitation was not in Alex's “best interests” – and a spokesman for the trust added that the two-week prognosis given to the Court of Protection in February was based on the best medical evidence available at the time.
The spokesman also said doctors in Southampton had consulted experts around the UK for their opinion and surgeon Robert Wheeler was not responsible for the prognosis.
The trust has denied it had considered restricting Mr and Mrs Elliott’s access to their son in hospital.
Duncan Lewis Children Lawyers
Duncan Lewis children lawyers can advise parents and guardians on a wide range of child care matters, including Court of Protection cases, care proceedings, court orders – and applying for Judicial Review to appeal decisions made by local authorities, family courts and social services.
There are Duncan Lewis offices nationwide – and Duncan Lewis is a leading firm of Legal Aid solicitors.
For expert advice on child care law, call Duncan Lewis children lawyers on 020 7923 4020.