Brain-damage ruling blow for family

Salisbury Journal: A High Court judge has backed an NHS Trust's right to withhold treatment in a landmark right-to-life ruling A High Court judge has backed an NHS Trust's right to withhold treatment in a landmark right-to-life ruling

A "devastated" family is considering whether to contest a High Court judge's ruling allowing a hospital trust to withdraw life-saving treatment from a severely brain-damaged Muslim patient if his condition significantly deteriorates.

The relatives of 55-year-old "Mr L", a devoutly religious man from Greater Manchester who is in a "minimally conscious" state, say all steps should be taken to keep him alive.

They are accusing the judge of failing to give sufficient weight to the fact that their faith requires everything to be done to prolong life "until God takes it away".

Mr L's wife and two of his adult sons say his condition is continuing to improve and that it would be wrong for clinicians of the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to withhold ventilation or resuscitation treatment in the event of a cardiac or respiratory arrest.

The Trust argue that improvements seen by the family remained so minimal that active resuscitation would be futile and could lead to an "undignified and traumatic death" - or Mr L being left in a worst state.

Treating clinicians say that such intervention, which could itself cause damage, would be against Mr L's best interests and conflict with the medical principle "do no harm", and might even be "cruel".

Mr Justice Moylan, sitting at the Court of Protection in London, ruled the balance was "firmly in favour" of the trust and declared that it would be lawful to withhold treatment. The judge said it sounded harsh, but that such treatment would only "prolong Mr L's death" and not prolong his life in any meaningful way.

"It would result in death being characterised by a series of harmful interventions without any realistic prospect of such treatment producing any benefit."

Dr Sally Bradley, the trust's medical director, said: "This has been a very difficult and emotional time for Mr L's family who have shown great dignity throughout this difficult process. We appreciate the family wish to do everything they can in the best interest of their loved one.

"We accept the court's decision and whilst Mr L will of course continue to receive the very best care from our staff, the decision made today by the High Court supports the clinical view of our trust's doctors."

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