Where doctors and family agree in cases of an irreversibly unconscious patient…

Switching off Life Support does not need to go to court!

The UK Supreme Court has recently confirmed that doctors can switch off life support for a patient who is irreversibly unconscious if agreement is reached with the ‘persons with an interest in the patient’s welfare’ without having first to refer the case to the Court of Protection.

So, basically, if the medical profession and the family agree then going through the courts is no longer necessary.

However, this sort of decision is a difficult one for any involved family member and getting agreement isn’t always as straightforward as you might expect. It can be complicated by the numbers of people with ‘an interest in the patient’s welfare’ or even identifying who has an interest. When the availability (to provide their agreement) of everyone with in interest is taken into account things can get even more difficult.

Colin points out that the creation and registration of a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is specifically designed to ease difficult decisions such as this and to ensure that your (the patients) wishes are more likely to be carried out. With a suitable LPA your nominated attorney (or attorneys) have the power to make such a decision in conjunction with the medical professionals. There is no argument over who has ‘an interest’ and the fact that you have asked someone to be your attorney usually means that you have ensured that they are better aware of your wishes for situations such as this.

Of course no one wants to become the ‘patient’ in a case such as this. Also, no one wants to put their family in the difficult position of having to make such a decision. But we are not in control of our own destinies and deciding what you want to happen in certain circumstances and ensuring that someone you trust to make the best decisions in your interest has the authority to do so – an LPA – makes sense and costs little.