68-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis should be allowed to die, London judge rules

A judge has ruled that a 68-year-old woman ‘’locked into the end stage’’ of multiple sclerosis should be allowed to die.
68-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis should be allowed to die, London judge rules

The woman’s daughter had told how her mother was ‘’completely incapacitated’’ and asked Mr Justice Hayden to allow medics to stop providing “clinically assisted nutrition and hydration”.

Mr Justice Hayden yesterday granted the application.

He had analysed the case this month at a public hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to sick and vulnerable people are considered, in London.

The judge analysed the views of the daughter, other relatives, medics, carers, independent medical experts, and lawyers he appointed to represent the woman.

Nobody involved in the case was opposing the application made by the daughter.

Mr Justice Hayden said he wants the woman’s family to know the decision was his.

“This decision is mine,” he told lawyers when handing down his ruling in London.

“It is made on the broadest survey of a wide canvas of opinion. It is not on the evidence of any one individual.”

He ruled the woman, a former hairdresser who is being cared for at a specialist unit in north-west England, cannot be identified.

The judge had said during the hearing that he could not “contemplate a more difficult decision’’.

He said his decision was an “evolution in case law”.

Experts had told the judge how they thought the woman was in a “minimally conscious state”.

They said she could “fix her vision” and “follow a moving object”.

Mathieu Culverhouse, a lawyer based at law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented the woman’s daughter, said the decision was the first of its kind.

“This landmark decision is the first time that the Court of Protection has agreed to withdraw treatment from someone receiving life sustaining treatment while considered by medical experts to be in a ‘minimally conscious state’.

“However, all cases of this kind are decided on their own facts and judges will always examine all the evidence presented to them, including that presented by the patient’s family affected, on an individual basis.”

He said: “The situation is distressing for all of those involved but after hearing all the evidence from the family, carers and medical experts presented to the court, the judge has decided that withdrawing the life sustaining treatment is in the woman’s best interests given her current quality of life.”

Lawyers said arrangements would be made for treatment to be withdrawn.

The woman’s daughter had told the court that continuing treatment would be against her mother’s wishes.

“My mum’s immaculate appearance, the importance she placed on maintaining her dignity and how she lived her life to its fullest is what formed her belief system; it’s what she lived for,” she said.

“All of that is gone now and very sadly my mum has suffered profound humiliation and indignity for so many years.

"I cannot emphasise enough how much the indignity of her current existence is the greatest contradiction to how she thrived on life and, had she been able to express this, then without a doubt she would.”

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