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A Landmark Judgement for Right to Die Cases?

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A recent judgement questions if legal permission is still required by a court before life-supporting treatment is withdrawn from patients in certain circumstances.

Cases involving applications to the Court by family members or doctors for an order to lead the withdrawal of life sustaining treatment have become increasingly common in recent times. However, a recent judgment means that the number of such cases may decline.

The judgement was made by Mr Justice Peter Jackson in the Court of Protection and is likely to have a bearing on how future ‘right-to-die’ cases are approached in the future. The ruling stated that providing strict medical guidelines have been observed and the family and medical staff are in agreement with the decision to withdraw treatment, there will be no requirement to obtain the consent of the Court.

This particular case involved a lady suffering with Huntingdon’s disease for which there is no cure. Permission was sought to end her treatment in June and was eventually granted by the Court in July - she died shortly afterwards having been in a persistent minimally conscious state for over a year and receiving treatment that both her medical staff and family felt were not in her best interests. The Official Solicitor acts for patients in these circumstances and has argued that all cases of this nature should be referred to the courts and so it is highly likely the decision will be appealed.

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This article was written by Chris Dickinson, a Solicitor at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of September 2017.

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