Landmark ruling by Supreme Court on life sustaining treatment

Landmark ruling by Supreme Court on life sustaining treatment

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court have ruled that Judges will no longer need to be consulted when doctors and family members of someone in a vegetative or minimally conscious state agree that the patient’s life support should be brought to an end.

The challenge was brought to the Supreme Court by the Official Solicitor who assist people who are vulnerable. In this case, Mr X had a cardiac arrest in June 2017. Before this, he had been an active man, a professional and a lover of sports. He was now in an unconscious state, unlikely to recover. Despite being 52, he did not have a will or a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Health and Welfare.

His wife and children agreed that Mr X would not want to carry on living in his current state and his doctors agreed. The Official Solicitor applied to the Supreme Court and argued that the best interests test should be applied, regardless of whether the family and the doctors agreed.

Lady Black in her judgment said that where families and doctors agree, an application to the court is not necessary. It is only where there is a lack of agreement or the patient had not set out their wishes that the court’s intervention should be sought.

This significant ruling is likely to impact the number of cases appearing before the court in the future. In addition, it highlights the significant importance of putting in place a LPA for Health and Welfare. If Mr X had a LPA setting out his wishes, it would have allowed his family to make the decision about life sustaining treatment without the doctors or the court agreeing. It would also have given him an opportunity to set out his wishes about how he should be treated in such circumstances.

For information on how we can support you in establishing a Lasting Power of Attorney please visit Health and Welfare LPAs.