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Court of Protection Rules Life Support Treatment Can Stop

Lindsey Briggs v Paul Briggs

The Court of Protection ruled on Tuesday 20th December that doctors should be allowed to remove life support treatment from a former policeman and solider.

Paul Briggs had been left ‘minimally conscious’ following a motorcycle crash in July 2015. His wife had asked the Court of Protection to determine whether her husband should be allowed to die; she had argued that he would have considered his current position as “torture”. However, doctors for Mr Briggs disagreed arguing that there had been some signs of improvement since the accident and with the right care he could be expected to live another ten years. Nevertheless, it was agreed that, should he emerge from his minimally conscious state, Mr Briggs would forever be extremely physically disabled.

The Court of Protection agreed with Mr Briggs’s wife and ruled that he should be moved to a hospice for the final weeks of his life where fluid and nutrition would be withdrawn. Mr Justice Charles said:

“(the) best interests (of Mr Briggs) are best served by giving effect to what he would have been able to dictate by exercising his right to self determination rather than the very powerful counter argument based on the preservation of his life”

The decision is being appealed and medical treatment will continue until the outcome of the appeal is decided next year.

Unfortunately, Paul Briggs did not have a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Health and Welfare nor an Advanced Directive (AD) in place at the time of the accident. An Advance Directive allows an individual to specify the extent and nature of the medical treatment they would, or would not, find acceptable should they lose mental capacity in the future. ADs are rigid insofar as they can only apply to the circumstances covered in the document; the Directive is valid as soon as it is signed and witnessed correctly.

An LPA has greater flexibility appointing an attorney, or attorneys, to act in your best interests having considered all the circumstances at the time. Your attorney has the legal right to make decisions on your behalf and can use the LPA once it has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (which can take eight weeks). An LPA does not enable an Attorney to prevent doctors’ decisions outright and where a conflict arises an application to the Court of Protection may be inevitable.

It is important to remember that an AD made after an LPA has been registered will take precedence to the extent that it differs from the wording of an LPA.

Court of Protection case summary