Yesterday's judgment in the case of M seems to be a victory for commonsense and compassion. After all, if doctors treating a patient and the patient's relatives agree that life-supporting treatment should be withdrawn from those with severely debilitating illnesses, what is the point of requiring that courts should have the final say? It appears to add an unnecessary hurdle for families and doctors to clear at what is undoubtedly already a difficult time for all concerned.
As well as the time implications of taking a case to court, the process can be costly and also means the patient receives continued treatment whilst waiting for the case to conclude which may not be in their best interests. Additionally, it means that valuable medical and legal resources are taken up which could be diverted more productively elsewhere.
However, the 'end of life' debate is always a controversial one with religious views and concern over the potential for exploitation of the vulnerable often raised as objections towards anything that makes it easier to withdraw treatment. It is often argued that the court's involvement provides an important safeguard that should not be removed and many worry that this could be the start of a 'slippery slope' which could see a move from withdrawing treatment to actively administering drugs to end life with vulnerable patients feeling pressured to end their life if they feel they are a burden on their family. With the Official Solicitor looking likely to appeal this decision, the position is still far from settled and the debate continues.
Interested in exploring the issues further? Then join Patricia Wass as she explains the debate in this informative CLT webinar: http://www.clt.co.uk/webinar/Assisted-Dying-and-End-of-Life-Issues-Webinar-OnDemand/
Legal permission will no longer be required by a court before life-supporting treatment is withdrawn from patients with severely debilitating illnesses, a high court judge has ruled. The landmark ruling by Mr Justice Peter Jackson in the court of protection marks a significant change in how right-to-die cases may be handled in future by hospitals and families in England and Wales. As long as doctors and relatives of the patient are in agreement and medical guidelines have been observed there is no need to bring a lengthy case to obtain judicial authorisation, Jackson declared.