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Ending Life Support

Euthanasia is of course not legal in this country. However our legislation is putting in place more and more procedures to enable the wishes and feelings of an individual to be upheld in end of life decisions and for families and relatives to be involved in this process.
We already have in place; Do Not Resuscitate, Consent Forms, Advance Decisions and Health and Welfare Powers of Attorney whereby with capacity you can give authority for a loved one to make life sustaining treatment decisions on your behalf.
In a land mark case on 30th July 2018 the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that a man with an extensive brain injury should be allowed to die without his family having to go before a Judge. This decision means that it will now be easier to withdraw life sustaining treatment to allow patients to die in circumstances when the doctors and families are in agreement to do so without the need to apply to the Court of Protection.
This will cut out delay, cost, uncertainty and heartache for many families that need to make such a difficult decision for their loved ones in a permanent vegetative state. In this particular case from June 2017 the 52 year old patient identified as Mr Y was in a prolonged disorder of consciousness after suffering a heart attack as a result of coronary artery disease. This condition meant that he remained in a coma and was in a vegetative state with a minimal conscious state after a brain injury.
The expert’s reports confirmed that it was highly improbable that Mr Y would re-emerge into consciousness and even if he did he would have a profound cognitive and physical disability and would always be dependent on others.
Despite the fact that Mr Y had not drawn up any Advance Decision to refuse treatment and did not have a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney his family were firmly of the view that he would not want to be kept alive given his poor prognosis.
His family therefore were in agreement with the medical team that it would be in his best interests to remove the nutrition and hydration that was keeping him alive.
In November 2017 a High Court Judge granted a declaration that it was not mandatory to bring before the Court the withdrawal of this assisted nutrition and hydration from Mr Y in circumstances where there was no dispute between his relatives and specialists. This decision was upheld unanimously by five Supreme Court Judges. It was argued that this case “is not about whether it is in the best interests of the patient “to have assisted nutrition and hydration withdrawn” it is about who decides that question”
To ensure that your wishes and feelings are taken into consideration if you did find yourself in an unfortunate situation like Mr Y it is best to discuss your wishes and feelings with your friends and close relatives, consider making an Advance Decision or a Lasting Power of Attorney for your Health and Welfare to ensure that a person that you trust, who knows you well will make those life sustaining treatment decisions in your best interests.

If you need any advice call our Specialist Team on 0800 088 6004.