The Court of Protection has ordered that treatment for a “deeply religious man” who suffered serious brain damage should continue.
In November 2014, a serious heart attack caused the man, identified in the judgment as ‘P’, to lose circulation for 25 minutes. By the time this was resolved, P had suffered brain damage which left him with “a profound and prolonged disorder of consciousness”. As a result, he was dependent on round the clock intensive care. One of those treatments was for a kidney problem he had suffered from throughout his life.
The local NHS Trust responsible for his care applied to the Court of Protection for permission to stop treatment because they believed P’s vegetative state was permanent. They admitted that stopping the treatment for his kidneys would inevitably lead to P’s death shortly afterwards.
However, one of the doctors involved in P’s care believed there was a chance his level of consciousness could improve over time.
P’s family firmly opposed the trust’s application. They claimed that he had shown “purposeful responses” while in the hospital and that stopping the treatment would be against his personal and religious beliefs.
Prior to his heart attack, P was a devout Sunni Muslim – a member of the largest branch of the Islamic faith. Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Newton said that testimony from family and friends had painted a picture of a man who “strongly believed that life was sacred given by God and could only be taken away by God.” He added that it was “against the tenet of his faith to do anything to shorten a life”.
The judge took into account objections from the family, P’s stated beliefs, and the fact that some of the medical experts were not convinced his situation was completely hopeless to reach “the clear conclusion that the balance lies strongly in favour of preserving P’s life” so he ordered that the kidney treatment continue.
He declared that there was “almost nothing to rebut the very strong presumption that it is in P’s best interests to stay alive”.
To read St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust -v- P and Q, click here.
Photo by Rudy Herman via Flickr