The Supreme Court is to consider whether or not hospitals must always seek court approval to withdraw medically delivered food and drink from patients who have fallen into comas and similar states without hope of recovery.
Justices there have granted the Official Solicitor permission to appeal the case of ‘Mr Y’, a 52 year-old man who fell into a ‘prolonged disorder of consciousness’ after sustaining a brain injury during a severe heart attack. Doctors who examined him agreed that he showed almost no response to or awareness of his surroundings and it “was highly improbable that he would re-emerge into consciousness.” His family agreed with the medical team that it was not in My Y’s best interests for his life to be artificially prolonged through the provision of ‘clinically assisted nutrition and hydration’, often referred to by the acronym CANH. Withdrawal of this would allow him to die naturally over a period of around two weeks.
During the proceedings the NHS Trust looking after Mr Y sought a legal declaration that court rulings no longer be mandatory in such situations, an application opposed by the Official Solicitor acting on behalf of Mr Y. When the declaration was granted, the Official Solicitor sought permission to appeal.
As the Official Solicitor was acting on behalf of Mr Y, the latter was technically the appellant in the case. The Supreme Court noted that Mr Y has since died.
“Notwithstanding the Appellant’s sad death, the Court gave permission for the appeal to proceed.”
The Supreme Court will hear the case next week, on 26 February.
You can read the original ruling here.
Photo by David Holt via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence