A UK high court judge has made a landmark ruling meaning that the families and doctors of patients suffering from severely debilitating illnesses will no longer have to seek legal permission to withdraw their life support treatment.
The landmark decision, made by Mr Justice Peter Jackson in the court of protection, is significant as it means that families and medical professionals of right-to-die cases in England and Wales will no longer have to go through court cases to end a patient’s care, provided they are in agreement.
Compassion in Dying, an organisation who helps to ensure peoples’ wishes are respected at the end of their lives, welcomed the ruling and told Euronews it would help ensure “every person gets the death that was right for them”.
What was the case in question?
The case, which was seen in the court of protection, concerned a 50-year-old woman, referred to as “M” as her name was kept anonymous, who suffered from Huntington’s disease for over 25 years.
M was believed to be in a minimally conscious state at a hospital in the Midlands, UK, when her family issued a request to the courts to withdraw her life-support treatment in June this year, her feeding tubes were taken out in July and she passed away on August 4.
What was the judge’s ruling?
“On the facts of this case, I do not consider it to have been a legal requirement for the decision to withdraw CANH (clinically assisted nutrition and hydration) to have been taken by the court,” deemed the judge in his notes, published on September 20.
The judge, however, did say that he understood why M’s family and doctors had asked for a ruling.
Why was this a landmark decision?
Thomas Davies, Director of Campaigns and Communications, from Compassion in Dying explained to Euronews why this decision is significant: “Previously, when a person was in a minimally conscious state and it was clear what they would’ve wanted for their end of life, their family would still have to go to court to ensure their wishes were respected.”