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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

16 OCT 2012

LIFE-SUSTAINING TREATMENT:A Local Authority v E and Others [2012] EWHC 1639 (COP), [2012] COPLR 441

(Court of Protection, Peter Jackson J, 15 June 2012)

The 32-year-old woman suffered from anorexia nervosa, alcohol and opiate dependence and an unstable personality disorder. She was being cared for in a community hospital under a palliative care regime in order for her to die in comfort. An urgent application was made to the Court of Protection to determine whether she should be forcibly fed when it became clear that her death was imminent as she was only taking a small amount of water and was refusing to eat.

In the past she had been compulsorily treated under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1983 and she had twice attempted to make advance decisions preventing the treatment proposed but doctors were not in agreement as to whether she had the capacity to do so.

The parents were highly sceptical of further treatment having witnessed their daughter go through several courses of unsuccessful treatment. The Official Solicitor sought a declaration that the woman lacked capacity and that forcible feeding was in her best interests.

The competing factors were finely balanced but it tipped slowly and unmistakably in favour of life-preserving treatment. The presumption in favour of life-preserving treatment was not displaced.

Finding that the woman lacked capacity to make a decision about life-sustaining treatment and that she should be fed against her wishes. The interference with her rights under Arts 3 and 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 was proportionate and necessary to protect her right to life under Art 2.

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