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Court of Protection considers plight of dementia sufferer’s family

Relatives of an 82 year-old woman suffering from dementia have succeeded in their bid to have a feeding tube reinserted.

The woman has Parkinson’s Disease in addition to dementia, and therefore has difficulty swallowing food the Telegraph reports. Her feeding tube became dislodged eight days ago at Maidstone Hospital in Kent and doctors treating her were reluctant to reinsert it, saying it might cause her “unnecessary suffering”.

Her family disagreed and as a result the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust took the case to the Court of Protection. This is a branch of the High Court which makes rulings on behalf of people unable to make their own decisions due to illness or disability. They sought a ruling that withholding the feeding tube would be legal, arguing that reinserting it would “prolong her process of dying”.

The woman’s family spoke of their distress at the court proceedings. One son said he could still communicate with his mother and he could not accept being asked to end his mother’s life.

He told the court:

“We would rather this case was sorted out at the hospital than in the courts.”

However, after the woman was visited by an independent doctor, the trust agreed to try and reinsert the tube. They requested an adjournment on the Court of Protection hearing and were granted this.

The judge said:

“I hope that [the attempt to reinsert the tube] will be successful. If it can’t be, I hope the parties would put their heads together to see what the consequences of that are.”

In April, a “living will” made by a woman suffering from Parkinson’s Disease came to light during an inheritance dispute.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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