Loved Ones Say Decision ‘Was What She Would Have Wanted’
The family of a woman who was left paralysed and unable to communicate after suffering a severe stroke in August last year have described the Court of Protection’s acceptance of the application for her treatment to be withdrawn as “what she would have wanted”.
The 79 year old woman, who lived in the South of England, cannot be named and is referred to as PL. Following her stroke PL was paralysed down the right side of her body and only had limited left side movement. While this meant she needed around-the-clock care, her limited swallowing ability meant she was nil by mouth. She lacked the mental capacity to make decisions about her medical treatment, and she was unable to communicate consistently by blinking or nodding. Doctors gave evidence and said that she had no rehabilitation potential.
As a result of her condition, her family instructed public law experts at Irwin Mitchell to help them apply to court for a decision as to her best interests so that doctors could withdraw the treatment that she was receiving, arguing that this step would be in line with her views on the matter prior to the stroke. All members of PL’s family and close friends were consulted. The NHS body providing care to PL was a party to the court case and whilst they tested the evidence, they remained neutral.
Today the Court of Protection has published its judgment ruling that those providing care for PL could bring an end to treatment and instead provide her with palliative care. A High Court judge, Mr Justice Cobb, heard evidence at a two day hearing and a ruling was made at a court hearing on 11 September, but the judge ordered that the publication of the judgment be delayed until today, 21 days after PL passed away.
Following the hearing, PL was transferred from a care home to hospital for specialist palliative care treatment. Life sustaining treatment was withdrawn in hospital and her family report that she passed away peacefully on 9 October.
Alice Cullingworth, the specialist lawyer in Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law and Human Rights team who represented PL’s family, said:
Expert Opinion“This is an incredibly emotive case and it has been hugely difficult for the loved ones of PL to make the decision in terms of applying for treatment to come to an 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 will have been met.” Alice Cullingworth - Solicitor
The case was brought by SL, who was PL’s son and 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.
“This closeness is why 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 PL 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.
 RCP PDOC Guidelines (2103)