Courts may not be able to rule on value of treatments when doctors and families clash

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 01 November 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6615
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

A Court of Protection judge who refused to grant declarations that three types of treatment should be withheld from a seriously ill man with limited consciousness got the law right, the UK Supreme Court has ruled unanimously.1

The five judges said that the Court of Appeal was also right to grant Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust the declarations two weeks later when David James’s condition had deteriorated further, but its reasoning was wrong.2 James died on 31 December 2012, 10 days after the declarations were granted.

In its first case on the Mental Capacity Act 2005, the UK’s highest court laid down important guidance for doctors faced with family opposition to decisions to discontinue treatment on clinical grounds.

The …

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