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Court of Protection rules doctors can withhold treatment

The Court of Protection has ruled that doctors should not forcibly give a seriously ill man the life-prolonging treatment he is resisting.

10 August 2012

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The 42-year-old man (HH) is in the “pre-terminal phase” of multiple organ dysfunction and has a learning disability. He is obese and has a needle phobia.

Mrs Justice Pauffley yesterday (9 August 2012) granted a declaration sought by the NHS Foundation Trust responsible for the man’s health care that he “lacks capacity” to make decisions in relation to the “serious medical treatment at issue in this application”.

She also said that it would be lawful and in HH’s “best interests” for the trust’s clinicians not to provide any assessments and treatments for his medical conditions “with which he does not comply” where those treatments cannot be delivered “without his co-operation or without the use of physical force”.

Experts, lawyers and HH’s mother – who wrote a “profoundly moving” letter to the court – agreed that it was better to let nurses provide basic care and to try to relieve his suffering. As a result, HH will likely die within weeks or months. Treatment could extend his life for around two years, it was heard.

The judge concluded: “The court is confronted with a desperately sad situation. Everything that can be done is being done to preserve his dignity during a phase of his life that seems to be fast approaching its end phase.

“It would be distressing for him to be subjected to any aggressive form of treatment that may result in a short prolongation of what has to be seen as a distressing life.”

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Vulnerable Clients