Appeal against a decision that it was not necessary to obtain a court order before CANH could be withdrawn. Appeal dismissed.
The question in this appeal is whether a court order must always be obtained before clinically assisted nutrition and hydration (“CANH”), which is keeping a person with a prolonged disorder of consciousness (“PDOC”) alive, can be withdrawn, or whether, in some circumstances, this can occur without court involvement. On 1 November 2017, the NHS Trust sought a declaration in the High Court that it was not mandatory to seek the court’s approval for the withdrawal of CANH from a patient (Mr Y) with PDOC when the clinical team and the patient’s family agreed that it was not in the patient’s best interests to continue treatment and that no civil or criminal liability would result if CANH were withdrawn. The High Court granted a declaration that it was not mandatory to seek court approval for withdrawal of CANH in the circumstances described above. The judge granted permission to appeal directly to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. It has not been established that the common law or the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) give rise to the mandatory requirement to involve the court to decide upon the best interests of every patient with PDOC before CANH can be withdrawn. However, if it transpires that the way forward is finely balanced, there is a difference of medical opinion, or a lack of agreement from persons with an interest in the patient’s welfare, a court application can and should be made.
Read the full text of the judgment and the Press Summary on the Supreme Court website here
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