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Supreme Court Clarifies Law On End Of Life Care When There Is No Dispute

If Families and Doctors Agree On Patient’s Best Interests, Treatment Can Be Withdrawn Without Court Order


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Specialist healthcare lawyers have welcomed a Supreme Court judgment handed down today which means legal permission from a judge will no longer be required to end of life care for patients in a prolonged disorder of consciousness .

The ruling means that as long as doctors and families agree on the best course of action, treatment including nutrition and hydration can be removed to allow patients to die with dignity without the need for an application to the court of protection.

Irwin Mitchell are experts in this field and has represented many families and patients across the country in cases concerning serious medical treatment issues or life and death decisions. From a number of cases we have brought, the case law has developed and the clinical guidance has developed to ensure safeguards are in place to protect patient’s rights.  

Expert Opinion
“This judgment has significantly clarified the law in this area and ensure that those with terminal or life limiting illnesses are treated with dignity and respect in the final stages of their lives and hopefully make the process as simple as possible for families at a most difficult time for them.

"The court has confirmed that as long as families and doctors agree that that removing treatment, including nutrition and hydration, is in the patient’s best interests, there is no legal requirement for a court order before the treatment can be withdrawn. The patient’s rights will be protected and long as the specialist clinical guidance and the requirements of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 are followed.

“This will allow those suffering with terrible terminal or life limiting illnesses to pass away with dignity, easing the suffering and pain for all involved. Of course where families and doctors cannot agree a way forward or the decision is more finely balanced, the Court of Protection will still be able to help to look at the facts and expert medical evidence available to help with the decision making process.”
Yogi Amin, Partner

The General Medical Council, British Medical Association and Royal College of Physicians have issued guidance on treatment of patients with a disorder of consciousness and will update their guidance to reflect the guidance provided in this legal ruling.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in medical treatment disputes.