In a landmark ruling in the Court of Protection, Mr Justice Peter Jackson has given a ruling that effectively means that in England and Wales, decisions can be made to withdraw life-support treatment in certain circumstances without having to obtain the permission of the court.
The doctors and the relatives of the patient will need to be in agreement about the decision, and the medical guidelines will need to have been complied with.
The decision is likely to have considerable ramifications for how such cases are dealt with.
The case related to a fifty-year-old woman with Huntington’s Disease, who was minimally conscious, showed no signs of recognition or engagement with her family and had no prospects of recovery. She had suffered from the disease for over twenty-five years. She was being kept alive with a feeding tube providing nutrition and hydration. This is effectively “life-sustaining” treatment. Its withdrawal will inevitably lead to the person’s life ending.
It is anticipated that the official solicitor will seek to appeal against the decision.