Operating Against Your Wishes

A mother of three has been deemed to lack the mental capacity to make critical decisions about her own medical treatment, and a senior judge has ordered she undergo a risky operation that could save her life, against the wishes of her lawyer who said it was in her ‘best interests’ to avoid undergoing the operation.

The judges’ decision was based on the fact that her three son’s said they wanted her to live while doctors said the procedure was worth the risk. (5-10% chance of death) Mr. Justice Holman agreed she could have the surgery before tumors spread.

Holman said he was “deeply conscious of the risk of death in this case, but because of the love and concern shown by the patients sons, it seems to be a risk worth taking.” He said the decision was a “heavy burden” on him and insisted he had “tried to the very best” for the woman, as had her sons.

He continues to explain the circumstances “She has cancer of the uterus. She could be saved by a potentially life-saving operation. However, because of several factors there is a considerable risk that she could die in the operation or in the post-operative recovery period.  She herself lacks the capacity to make an informed decision. She denies that she has cancer at all and opposes, and is resistant to, the operation.”

He stressed, “No one, or any court, can order or require any doctor to take any step. The court can only permit it.”

The first known case of this type occurred two years ago, whereby a judge ordered that a woman with cancer who had a phobia of hospitals could be forcibly sedated at home to then be taken to hospital and operated on.

To conclude Mr. Justice Holman said “Assuming the surgery takes place it is of course my fervent hope that it proceeds as smoothly as possible to a good outcome from Mrs K. Like her sons I fully appreciate that it may not. I, like they, have tried to do the very best for her.”