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Judge rules “right to die” cases no longer require Court approval

In a landmark decision from Mr Justice Peter Jackson, legal permission will no longer be required by a Court before life-supporting treatment is withdrawn for patients in minimally conscious or persistent vegetative states.

What has happened?

The ruling comes following the case of “M”, a 50 year old woman who had suffered for some 25 years with Huntington’s Disease. There was no cure for her illness and at the time of the Court hearing, she was in a minimally conscious state.

She had been provided with clinically assisted nutrition and hydration for approximately 12 months, despite this treatment not representing what either her doctors or her family felt to be in her best interests.

Mr Justice Jackson confirmed that in cases where a patient is suffering from a serious and severely debilitating illness, if the medical practitioners caring for the patient are in agreement with the relatives, there will no longer be a requirement to commence costly proceedings to consider the situation in the Court of Protection.

Prior to this case, the situation was unclear as to whether permission from the Court was required where there is no dispute between the patient’s family and treating clinicians.

Mr Justice Jackson explained his decision in that “a mandatory litigation requirement may deflect clinicians and families from making true best-interests decisions and in some cases lead to inappropriate treatment continuing by default”.

It has been confirmed that “M” has now died.

What happens next?

It is anticipated that an appeal will be forthcoming from the Official Solicitor, a government official appointed to act for such patients.

The Official Solicitor opposed the significant decision in the case of “M” and was of the view that every case of this nature should come before the Courts.

How can Ward Hadaway help?

For further information on the implications of this development, please contact Jeffrey Keeble or a member of our healthcare team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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