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Judge allows treatment withdrawal for minimally conscious patient

Official Solicitor understood to have applied for permission to appeal

20 December 2016

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The Court of Protection has allowed treatment withdrawal in the case of a policeman in a minimally conscious state, saying the man would not have consented to it.

Paul Briggs fell into a coma following a serious road traffic accident in 2015 and has since been on clinically assisted nutrition and hydration (CANH).

Mr Justice Charles ruled that it was not in the 43-year-old’s best interests for treatment to continue and that it was lawful for treatment to be withdrawn. He said Briggs should now be moved to a hospice to be given palliative care in his final few weeks.

‘I am sure that if Mr Briggs had been sitting in my chair and heard all the evidence and argument he would not have consented to further treatment,’ the judge said, before adding: ‘this means that the court is doing on behalf of Mr Briggs what he would have wanted and what he would have done for himself if he was able to do so.’

Paul Briggs did not make any advance decision in writing about what he would like to happen if he were to lose capacity. His wife Lindsey applied for ongoing treatment to be withdrawn, saying it didn’t accord with his sense of independence and dignity.

In a four-day hearing last month his family and friends gave evidence describing a man who had been exceptionally active and would not have agreed to forced treatment in the circumstances. But doctors at the Walton Centre, where the former war veteran is a patient, opposed the application, arguing that 43-year-old’s condition would improve.

The Official Solicitor is understood to have applied for permission to appeal, arguing that an appellate court should provide further clarity in such cases.

Jean-Yves Gilg is editor-in-chief of Solicitors Journal

jean-yves.gilg@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @jeanyvesgilg

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