Doctors should withdraw treatment from stroke victim, court rules

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Oct 31, 2017
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The woman was incapacitated by a stroke in August last year

Wernher Krutein/Corbis

Medical treatment is to be withdrawn from a 79-year-old woman after lawyers argued that it was in line with her views before she was incapacitated by a stroke.

The Court of Protection ruled yesterday that removing treatment was in the best interests of the patient, who is identified only as PL, and that her family agreed it was the course of action she would have wanted.

After suffering a stroke in August last year, the woman, who lived in southern England, was paralysed down the right side of her body with only limited movement on the left side. As a result, she required constant care and had to be fed intravenously.

The court was told that PL lacked the mental capacity to make decisions about her medical treatment and was unable to communicate consistently by blinking or nodding. Doctors told the court that she had no rehabilitation potential. 

Her family, led by her son and litigation friend, instructed lawyers to apply to the court for an order allowing doctors to withdraw treatment. It was argued that doing so was in accordance with her views on treatment in these circumstances prior to the stroke.

All members of PL’s family and her close friends were consulted. The NHS body providing care to PL was a party to the court case and while it tested the evidence, the doctors remained neutral.

“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,” said Alice Cullingworth, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, the national law firm that acted for the family.  

“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.”

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