Grandfather must receive treatment

Posted: 16th January 2013

An NHS Trust’s application to withhold intrusive medical treatment from a desperately ill grandfather on grounds that it is futile and only increases his suffering has been rejected by a High Court judge who accepted his family’s plea that he still enjoys a measurable quality of life from which he gains pleasure.

The patient suffers from a constellation of medical problems consequent upon colon cancer, including a severe stroke and brain damage, and the trust’s lawyers argued that he is in a minimally conscious state and that his chances of any meaningful recovery are very slight. It was submitted that the burdens of administering intrusive treatment outweighed the benefits and that a ‘do not attempt resuscitation’ notice should be placed on his medical notes.Hospital4

However, lawyers for the patient’s wife and three children argued that he shows clear signs of recognising them, smiling at their approach and apparently mouthing words, and resisted the trust’s application. His daughter had described the prospect of withholding treatment as appalling and the family’s goal was for him to make a full recovery and return home.

There was no challenge to medical evidence that the patient had sustained severe physical and neurological damage and that this prognosis is gloomy and Mr Justice Peter Jackson observed that the ‘family’s hope is for a miracle’. However, he said he had reached the clear conclusion that it would not be appropriate to withhold treatment at this time.

The trust’s application significantly undervalued the non-medical aspects of the patient’s current situation and, based on the evidence of the effects of treatment so far and the patient’s stable condition at present and responses to his family, the judge said that the treatments could not be described as over-burdensome or futile.

The judge emphasised that both the family and medical staff treating the patient held sincere views and there was no question of anyone having won or lost the argument. ‘Whatever is in his best interests, the family and the doctors will need to work together to ensure that his remaining time is not overshadowed by continuing disagreement,’ he concluded.