A woman in her 50s is currently receiving life-support at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, will have her treatment stopped by the end of October. After contracting Covid-19, the patient was admitted on an emergency basis late in 2020 with complications and is currently brain-damaged and paralysed from the neck down. She is on a ventilator and cannot speak.
Specialists providing the treatment gave evidence, who said the patient was the “most complicated” Covid-19 patient in the world and doctors said there was no way to improve “any aspect of her condition”. They also said that she was in pain and distress whilst being on life support treatment, whereas moving her to palliative care would mean she could die peacefully and without distress.
The woman’s children and sister disagreed and argued that even though the patient left “no direct record” of what she would have wanted, the religious patient “would not want to end her life in this way” as it would be “tantamount to suicide”; a mortal sin for certain religious people.
The Court of Protection’s decision
Whilst the Court took into consideration the family’s views, they need to act in the best interests of the patient by looking at various factors on a case-by-case basis. In this case, key questions were raised:
- Will she get better?
- Is she currently in pain and distressed?
- How long is her life expectancy?
- What is her quality of life?
Mr Justice Hayden made the ruling after considering all of the evidence though noted the end of life case in relation to Covid-19 was the first case of its kind.
The decision was deeply upsetting for the family. So how could this have been prevented?
If you lose mental capacity and are unable to make decisions for yourself, the Court of Protection will oversee what decisions can be made on your behalf. However, before losing mental capacity, you can put in place Lasting Powers of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs, and/or, for Health and Welfare Decisions to appoint someone to make those decisions for you when you are not able to.
If you have specific wishes as to when to refuse treatment, you can make an Advance Directive, also known as a Living Will. This is a written statement that will tell your family and doctors when you are not able to tell them yourself at the time, what treatment you want or don’t want in specific circumstances.
How Nelsons can help
Vikky Lai is a Trainee Solicitor at Nelsons.
If you would like any advice in relation to the subjects discussed in this article, please contact a member of our expert Court of Protection Disputes team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham who will be able to assist.