UK judge: court ruling not needed in life-support decisions

UK judge: court ruling not needed in life-support decisions

[JURIST] A judge for the UK's Court of Protection [official website] ruled [decision, PDF] Wednesday that there is no obligation for judicial consent to end care of patients in a permanent vegetative state. Justice Peter Jackson [official profile] of the High Court Family Division oversaw proceedings on patient M, a woman who had been on an End of Life Care Plan since July 2016 and had been unresponsive for about eighteen months.

For almost three decades, the UK has enacted a policy of directing end of life decisions to the Court of Protection, regardless if doctors and the family agree. A UK court of appeals has also recently declined a bid to create a legal "right to die" [JURIST report] for a man who is still conscious and would be seeking his own death.

The judge cited three points as to why the parties did not need to seek legal authorization to withdraw care in this case: (1) there is no statutory obligation; (2) there is no Art. 2 duty that mandates court oversight; (3) there is substantial medical consensus on withdrawal of care.

According to Sarah Wootton of Compassion in Dying [advocacywebsite], this is the right judgment [BBC report]. "When all parties—family, the hospital and treating doctors—are agreed on what someone would have wanted for their care, it seems absurd to require a costly court process to confirm this.