Withdrawing clinically assisted nutrition and hydration: some clarity on mandatory court applications?

Withdrawing clinically assisted nutrition and hydration: some clarity on mandatory court applications?

Re Y [2017] EWHC 2866 (QB)

O’Farrell J handed down a judgment this morning confirming that it is not mandatory to bring before the Court of Protection the withdrawal of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration (CANH) from Mr Y, who suffers from a prolonged disorder of consciousness, in circumstances where the clinical team and Mr Y’s family are agreed that it is not in Mr Y’s best interests to continue to receive that treatment. Hempsons acted for the claimant NHS trust.

This case is notable as it aims to provide clarity in relation to the decision-making powers for clinicians caring for patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness (PDOC) and the role of the courts in such decisions.

These issues have been the object of legal debate previously but consequent decisions (such as Jackson J in Re M) have been said not to be able to provide much needed clarity because they have not been concerned with the primary matter before the Court of Protection (which was the patient’s best interests) and/or because the Official Solicitor (who believes that applications for withdrawal of CANH from PDOC patients should always go before the Court) had not been formally involved.

The Official Solicitor acts for Mr Y in this case and has been granted permission to appeal the judgment. We anticipate that this case will bypass the Court of Appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court in the near future.

Please contact Helen Edwards or John Holmes if you have any questions in relation to this case or any similar circumstances.

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