A man who suffers from Huntington’s disease should be allowed to die the Court of Protection has ruled.
Mr Justice Hayden made this decision after he was told that the man had removed his feeding tube around 120 times. The man’s mother and aunt both believed he wanted to “go”.
Huntington’s disease is a genetic condition which damages nerve cells in the brain. There is no cure and no way to slow down its effects. The man had inherited the disease from his father – who died from it – and began to show symptoms while still a teenager. Despite his condition he had been an avid supporter of Manchester United throughout his life and had attended a number of their matches at Old Trafford.
However a nurse told the court that his quality of life had fallen drastically over the last few years. He could no longer get out of bed, speak or eat properly. This led to the insertion of a feeding tube directly into his stomach.
A consultant neurologist said that he could not see “any circumstances where [forcing a feeding tube upon the man] would be the right course of action – even if it leads to his death”. There would be “a futility in reinserting the tube” the doctor continued, because the man would continue to pull out the feeding tubes “unless he is restrained permanently”.
Mr Justice Haden said that although the instinct of the medical profession is to “preserve life wherever possible” it was not the only factor to consider in cases like this one. The “dignity and autonomy of the individual” should also be respected.
He ruled that the feeding tube should not be reinserted even if such action would speed up the man’s eventual death.
Photo by Farouq Taj via Flickr