Court rules on withheld treatment
Wednesday 30th October 2013, 2:50AM GMT.
The Supreme Court has ruled that appeal judges were right to allow doctors to withhold treatment from a ”gravely ill” guitarist.
David James, who came from Liverpool and was 68, died 10 months ago, shortly after the Court of Appeal decided that withdrawal of treatment would be in his best interests.
His widow, May, 68, had asked the Supreme Court – the highest court in the UK – to overrule that decision.
But a panel of Supreme Court justices ruled against Mrs James today a fter analysing the case at a hearing in London in July.
Mr James – a grandfather and father of three – had undergone surgery for colon cancer.
Doctors at Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool initially asked a High Court judge sitting in the Court of Protection – which is part of the High Court and deals with issues relating to sick and vulnerable people – for a declaration that withholding treatment would be in Mr James’ best interests should his condition deteriorate.
Mr James’ relatives were against the idea and Mr Justice Peter Jackson refused the trust’s application.
But his decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal after the trust appealed.
Supreme Court justices today ruled that Mr Justice Peter Jackson applied the “right principles” and reached a conclusion which he was entitled to reach on the evidence before him.
But they said appeal judges were also right to reach the conclusion they did on the basis of “fresh evidence”.
One Supreme Court justice, Lady Hale, said the appeal had been dismissed but the James’ family had “won the argument” on “principle”.
“I’m just pleased with this today that this court has told the truth basically,” said Mr James’s daughter Julie, 49, after today’s ruling.
“They’ve told the truth and they’ve recognised our fight, they have recognised our fight and my Dad’s fight for life. He was fighting for his life, he wanted to live.”
Mat Culverhouse, a specialist healthcare lawyer at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said today’s decision was “potentially the most significant right to life ruling for decades”.
“The Supreme Court has confirmed that the judge at first instance was right when he said that recovery does not mean a return to full health, but the resumption of a quality of life which the patient would regard as worthwhile,” he said.
“The Supreme Court also emphasised the need to take into account not just the medical factors in the case, but ‘the patient’s welfare in the widest sense’, with great weight to be given to the patient’s family life.”