Doctors will no longer always have to get permission from a judge to turn off a patient’s life support.
It comes after a legal ruling about a man in a vegetative state, who was unlikely to ever regain consciousness.
The 52-year-old financial analyst, named only as Mr Y, had a cardiac arrest in June 2017 which led to him entering a prolonged disorder of consciousness (PDOC).
Doctors said he was unlikely to ever wake up, but that if he did he would have profound cognitive and physical disabilities and would always be dependent on others.
He had not left any instructions about wanting to refuse treatment, but his family said he would not want to be kept alive given his poor prognosis.
Doctors agreed that it would be in his best interests for clinically assisted nutrition and hydration (CANH) to be withdrawn, meaning he would die within two to three weeks.
Usually, they would need permission from a judge to take a patient off life support.
However, in November 2017, a High Court judge said going to court was not necessary in brain injury cases like this, if both his family and specialists agreed.
She gave permission for an appeal by the Official Solicitor – who represents people who lack capacity – and CANH was provided in the meantime.
Mr Y died in December but the appeal still went ahead because of the general importance of the issues raised. Today, the decision was upheld.
Lady Black emphasised that many cases would still need to come to court due to their particular circumstances ‘and there should be no reticence about involving the court in such cases’.
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