Supreme Court radical ruling on withdrawal of CANH

Supreme Court radical ruling on withdrawal of CANH

On 30 July the Supreme Court gave an important judgment making it clear that it is not a legal obligation for healthcare professionals to seek the approval of the Court before withdrawing CANH (Clinically Assisted Nutrition and Hydration) in a person with a prolonged disorder of consciousness such as PVS or minimally conscious state (MCS).

Even though the consequence of withdrawal would result in death, the NHS Trust was granted a declaration that it was no longer  mandatory to seek  Court approval for the withdrawal of CANH from patient Y with the clinical team and family’s consent.

The Court confirmed it was not in the patient’s best interests to continue treatment and that no civil or criminal liability would result.  In these complex cases NHS Trusts will still need to ensure that the decision making process set out in the judgment is followed and in particular the second opinion from a senior doctor not involved in the case and working in a different organisation .

Guidance is awaited from the BMA, GMC and RCP but it is clear that in some cases unless there is an agreement between all involved, an application to the Court may still be necessary involving the Official Solicitor to act on behalf of the patient.