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Monday, 30 October 2017

Severely disabled woman dies after court decision to end life support

Written by Brian Farmer

A 79-year-old woman left brain damaged and severely physically disabled following a stroke has died following a life-support treatment ruling by a judge in a specialist court.

Mr Justice Cobb had decided that doctors could lawfully stop artificial feeding after analysing the case at a hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered, in London in early September.

He has announced his decision - and the woman's death - in a written ruling published on Monday.

The judge said the woman had died "peacefully" earlier this month shortly after artificial feeding had ended.

He had heard that the woman was significantly incapacitated and being kept alive only through artificial feeding.

Relatives had asked the judge to consider whether it was in the woman's best interests for medics to continue providing "clinically assisted nutrition and hydration".

He said the woman's family was "united" behind the application.

Health authority bosses with responsibility for the woman's care said they would have made a similar application in relatives had not done so.

"I have reviewed and considered (her) welfare in the widest sense," said the judge.

"On balance I have concluded that it is not in her best interests."

"It follows that the discontinuance of the clinically assisted nutrition and hydration treatment is therefore lawful."

Mr Justice Cobb said the woman could not be identified.

He said Kingston Council in south-west London (pictured) and the Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group had responsibilities for her care.

A lawyer who represented the woman's family said the case was "incredibly emotive".

"It has been hugely difficult for (her) loved ones to make the decision in terms of applying for treatment to come to an end, " said Alice Cullingworth, who is based at law firm Irwin Mitchell.

"The patient's full circumstances and her human rights were considered by the court before arriving at a decision that it was in her best interests to provide palliative care only."

She added: "This case is truly heartbreaking and we only hope that if the family can draw any comfort from this outcome, it is that the wishes of their much-loved mother and wife will have been met."

The woman's son said: "It was incredibly difficult for us to make this application, particularly as I enjoyed a close relationship with Mum all of my life.

"This closeness is why I and the rest of the family knew that continuing with medical treatment was simply not what she would want.

"Mum prided herself on being independent, so being in a position where she was wholly dependent on the help of others without any prospect of recovery must have been so hard for her.

"She told us before her stroke that if she was ever in a position like that, she would want to pass away."

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