UK

Allow 'minimally conscious' MS sufferer to die, says judge

Nurse holding patient's hand Image copyright Science Photo Library

A 68-year-old woman "locked into the end stage" of multiple sclerosis should be allowed to die, a judge has ruled.

Her daughter had asked a court to allow medics to stop providing "clinically assisted nutrition and hydration".

She said her mother was "completely incapacitated". Experts said the woman was in a "minimally conscious state".

Mr Justice Hayden, who heard evidence at the Court of Protection, granted the application, saying his decision was an "evolution in case law".

The BBC's legal correspondent Clive Coleman said it was the first time a judge had made such a ruling for someone in a minimally conscious state.

'Profound humiliation'

The woman is being treated in the north of England, but cannot be identified for legal reasons.

Mr Justice Hayden was presented with the views of the daughter, other relatives, medics involved in her treatment, carers, independent medical experts and lawyers he had appointed to represent the woman earlier this month.

No-one involved opposed the daughter's application.

She said continuing treatment would be against her mother's wishes.

"My mum's immaculate appearance, the importance she placed on maintaining her dignity and how she lived her life to its fullest is what formed her belief system; it's what she lived for," she told the court.

"All of that is gone now and very sadly my mum has suffered profound humiliation and indignity for so many years."

She added: "I cannot emphasise enough how much the indignity of her current existence is the greatest contradiction to how she thrived on life and, had she been able to express this, then without a doubt she would."

Ruling 'relief'

Lawyers said arrangements would now be made for treatment to be withdrawn in line with national clinical guidelines.

Mathieu Culverhouse, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who represented the daughter, said the case had been "distressing" for those involved.

He said the daughter was "relieved" at the ruling.

He added: "This landmark decision is the first time that the Court of Protection has agreed to withdraw treatment from someone receiving life sustaining treatment while considered by medical experts to be in a 'minimally conscious state'.

"However, all cases of this kind are decided on their own facts and judges will always examine all the evidence presented to them, including that presented by the patient's family affected, on an individual basis."

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