Re S – withdrawal of life sustaining treatment

Mr Justice Hayden has published his judgment in Re S (https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2016/32.html) approving the following orders:

(1) S lacked capacity to litigate in the current proceedings;

(2) S lacked capacity to make decisions about her own medical treatment and, in particular, the provision of artificial nutrition and hydration; and

(3) it was no longer in S’s best interests to continue to receive artificial nutrition and hydration, and that it was lawful and in her best interests for artificial nutrition and hydration to be withdrawn with the provision of such palliative care, including pain relief, as is considered appropriate to ensure that she suffers the least distress and retains the greatest dignity until such time as her life comes to an end.

S had generally been a physically healthy young person, although was considered by her family to have a complex personality which had been affected by a depressive illness.  S also had a history of alcohol and drug use.

On 21 August 2012, aged 38, S took glucoside (it is not clear whether this was accidental or deliberate).  It is possible that S may have experienced a secondary epileptic seizure in addition to the significant reduced level of blood oxygenation caused by the glucoside.  Since S’s admission to hospital, there was no evidence that S was aware of herself or her environment.

In reaching his decision to approve the above orders, Mr Justice Hayden carried out an evaluation of S’s best interests, identified and weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of withdrawal and continuation of treatment (often referred to as the “balance sheet” approach).  In this matter, particular consideration was given to the wishes and feelings of S (as identified by her family) and her family, who it was recognised, knew S’s wishes best.

Mr Justice Hayden also imposed a reporting restriction on the matter for the duration of S’s life and for a period 8 weeks after death.

For information on supporting vulnerable adults speak to our specialist Holly Chantler on 01737  854 525, email [email protected]


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