NHS Trust v CD Ors – Can the COP consent to the withdrawal of life sustaining treatment?

In the recent case of London NHS Trust v CD & Ors, P was a 20 year old woman who, on 18 January 2021, attempted suicide. She was discovered by the staff at the unit where she was a patient and was taken to a London Hospital where she has remained in intensive care since.

As a result of the lockdown, P had returned from university to reside with her mother and sister from March to December 2020. During this time, she had been having psychiatric troubles whereby she had attempted to take an overdose of paracetamol and as a result, was voluntarily admitted to a private psychiatric hospital. It was as an inpatient at the facility where P tried to end her life.

P’s father commenced proceedings on 26 January 2021 to be appointed as her welfare Deputy. On 15 February 2021, P’s Mother applied to be appointed alongside others as P’s welfare and property and affairs Deputy. The consent orders were approved and the NHS were requested to file evidence.

On 9 March 2021, J Williams declared that P lacked the capacity to conduct the proceedings and to make decisions as to her care and treatment. Evidence was provided by the P’s neuro critical care consultant, consultant neurologist and an external second opinion from Dr Andrew Hanrahan, who all agreed that P had sustained extensive hypoxic brain damage as a result of the attempted suicide. This resulted in her being either in a persistent vegetative state or the lower level of minimally conscious state. The Trust’s treating team concluded that it was not in P’s best interests and it would be unethical to continue providing life sustaining treatment, specifically clinically assisted nutrition and hydration. P’s mother and sister agreed with the treating team however, P’s father did not agree.

The Court took into account all of the medical evidence provided in relation to P’s condition and prognosis and the understanding of the P’s personality, wishes and values. The Court concluded that it was not in P’s best interests to administer the life-sustaining medical treatment. Instead it was concluded that a palliative care regime would be implemented which would consequently allow her life to end.

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