The Court of Protection has accepted our clients’ application for the withdrawal of treatment for a woman paralysed by a stroke.
The woman was left paralysed after suffering a severe stroke in August last year. Her family has described the Court of Protection’s acceptance of their application for treatment to be withdrawn as “what she would have wanted”.
Christine (not her real name), aged 79, lived in the South of England. Following her stroke, she was paralysed down the right side of her body and had only limited left side movement. She needed round-the-clock care and could not swallow food or water.
As she lacked the mental capacity to make decisions about her medical treatment and was unable to communicate, Christine’s family decided withdrawal of treatment would be best.
They asked us to help them apply to the Court of Protection for a decision that would allow doctors to withdraw the treatment that she was receiving. They said that this would be in line with her wishes prior to suffering a stroke. All members of Christine’s family were consulted, as where her close friends, while doctors gave evidence that she had no possibility of rehabilitation.
The NHS body providing care to Christine was involved with the court case and, although they tested the evidence, remained neutral throughout.
After a two day hearing, High Court judge Mr Justice Cobb ruled that those providing care for Christine could bring an end to treatment and provide her with palliative care. He also ordered that the publication of the judgment be delayed until 21 days after Christine passed away.
Following the hearing, Christine was transferred from a care home to a hospital for specialist palliative care. Life sustaining treatment was withdrawn and her family report that she passed away peacefully on 9 October.
Alice Cullingworth, a specialist lawyer in Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law and Human Rights team, represented Christine’s family. She said:
“This is an incredibly emotive case and it has been hugely difficult for the loved ones of Christine to make the decision to apply for her treatment to end. The patient’s full circumstances and her human rights were considered by the court before arriving at a decision that it was in her best interests to provide palliative care only.
“This case is truly heart-breaking and we only hope that if the family can draw any comfort from this outcome, it is that the wishes of their much-loved mother and wife have been met.”
The case was brought by Christine’s son, who was appointed her ‘litigation friend’.
Discussing his mother, he said: “It was incredibly difficult for us to make this application, particularly as I enjoyed a close relationship with Mum all of my life.
“I and the rest of the family knew that continuing with medical treatment was simply not what she would want. Mum prided herself on being independent, so being in a position where she was wholly dependent on the help of others without any prospect of recovery must have been so hard for her. She told us before her stroke that, if she was ever in a position like that, she would want to pass away.
“We feel that the Court of Protection listened to our views, considered all the evidence carefully and made the ruling which we feel is what Mum would have wanted. The judge handled the case very sensitively.”
After the court ruling Christine received medical care in line with the national guidelines laid down by the Royal College of Physicians.
Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Court of Protection claims.
If you need legal assistance for any of the issues covered in this article, you can contact our specialist Court of Protection solicitors for a free consultation on 0370 1500 100 or contact us online and we’ll call you back.
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