Court Decides True Wishes of Pensioner in Minimally Conscious State

In a minimally conscious state, a 72-year-old woman was unable to tell anyone what she wanted in terms of medical treatment or intervention, this left the court to decide on her behalf, taking into account what she might have wanted.

The pensioner had sustained irreversible brain damage when she had had a fall, there was no expectation of any significant improvement although she was stable. There was no recognition of her family members and although she could smile there was no possibility of getting better.

As they could not talk to her and get her permission the NHS trust applied to the court to make the decision to insert a feeding tube into the woman’s stomach, this would give her a further 3-5-year survival.

The family challenged this decision, particularly her daughter who believed that her mother had previously stated that she would not want to be kept alive if she became incapacitated and there was an e-mail from her mother where she asked her daughter to smother her with a pillow if that were the case. The daughter argued that were her mother able to refuse treatment she would.

The court took the decision to reject the NHS trusts application on the basis that the evidence they had heard from her grandsons and the email the woman would not have wanted to remain dependant on other people for her day-to-day care as she would have found it demeaning, and would have refused treatment. The court added that the areas of law and medicine need to keep up with each other.

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