Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Judge rules 'incapacitated' multiple sclerosis sufferer should be allowed to die

A judge has ruled that a 68-year-old woman ''locked into the end stage'' of multiple sclerosis should be allowed to die.

The woman's daughter had told how her mother was ''completely incapacitated'' and had asked Mr Justice Hayden to allow medics to stop providing ''clinically assisted nutrition and hydration''.

Mr Justice Hayden today granted the daughter's application.

He had analysed the case earlier this month at a public hearing in the Court of Protection - where issues relating to sick and vulnerable people are considered - in London.

The judge had analysed the views of the daughter, other relatives, medics involved in her treatment, carers, independent medical experts plus lawyers he had appointed to represent the woman.

No-one involved in the case was opposing the application made by the daughter.

Mr Justice Hayden said he wants the woman's family to know the decision was his.

"This decision is mine," he told lawyers when handing down his ruling in London. "It is made on the broadest survey of a wide canvas of opinion."

He added: "It is not on the evidence of any one individual."

He ruled the woman, a former hairdresser who is being cared for at a specialist unit in north-west England, cannot be identified.

The judge had said during the hearing that he could not "contemplate a more difficult decision''.

He said his decision was an "evolution in case law".

Lawyers who represented the woman's daughter described the ruling as a landmark.

Experts had told the judge how they thought the woman was in a "minimally conscious state".

They said she could "fix her vision" and "follow a moving object".

Mathieu Culverhouse, a specialist Court of Protection lawyer based at law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented the woman's daughter, said the decision was the first of its kind.

"This landmark decision is the first time that the Court of Protection has agreed to withdraw treatment from someone receiving life sustaining treatment while considered by medical experts to be in a 'minimally conscious state'," said Mr Culverhouse.

"However, all cases of this kind are decided on their own facts and judges will always examine all the evidence presented to them, including that presented by the patient's family affected, on an individual basis."

He said: "The situation is distressing for all of those involved but after hearing all the evidence from the family, carers and medical experts presented to the court, the judge has decided that withdrawing the life sustaining treatment is in the woman's best interests given her current quality of life.

"While this is clearly distressing for her daughter, she is relieved that the court has been able to review and examine the expert medical evidence available and hear detailed legal argument before making a decision which will now end her mother's suffering and indignity."

Lawyers said arrangements would be made for treatment to be withdrawn in line with national clinical guidelines.

The woman's daughter had told the court that continuing treatment would be against her mother's wishes.

"My mum's immaculate appearance, the importance she placed on maintaining her dignity and how she lived her life to its fullest is what formed her belief system; it's what she lived for," she said.

"All of that is gone now and very sadly my mum has suffered profound humiliation and indignity for so many years.

"I cannot emphasise enough how much the indignity of her current existence is the greatest contradiction to how she thrived on life and, had she been able to express this, then without a doubt she would."

Four years ago, another judge ruled that a brain-damaged, minimally conscious 52-year-old woman should not be allowed to die.

Mr Justice Baker's ruling was hailed as a landmark decision which clarified the law relating to the care of the severely disabled.

He had said there was dignity in the life of a disabled person who was ''well cared for and kept comfortable'' - and concluded that life-supporting treatment should not be withdrawn.

He concluded the 52-year-old had ''some positive experiences'' which could be ''extended''.

He ruled the woman, who lived in a care home in the north of England, could not be identified.

He had said an English court had never before been asked to consider whether life-supporting treatment should be withdrawn from a patient who was not in a persistent vegetative state but was minimally conscious.

His decision came nearly two decades after leading judges ruled that Liverpool football fan Tony Bland - left in a permanent vegetative state after being crushed at the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster - could be allowed to die.

Mr Justice Hayden had heard legal argument from lawyers representing the woman's daughter and lawyers representing two health organisations involved in her care.

The woman's interests were represented by the Office of the Official Solicitor, which provides legal help to mentally ill people.

Lawyers instructed by the Official Solicitor initially said the judge should conclude that there was a ''strong presumption in favour of the benefits of continuing life''.

But they altered their view after hearing evidence and said they had decided to support the application.

Full Article & Source:
Judge rules 'incapacitated' multiple sclerosis sufferer should be allowed to die


Bryan said...

If he wants to die, that should be his decision. But I do not believe multiple sclerosis makes this man incapacitated.

StandUp said...

I agree with you, Bryan.