Responding to the news of a dispute between the daughter of a woman in a minimally-conscious state and clinicians over whether life-sustaining can be withdrawn, Usha Grieve, Director of Partnerships and Information at Compassion in Dying, said:

“This case is a tragic one and our thoughts are with the patient’s family. Sadly, this is a situation that is not uncommon. What many people fail to realise is that in the event of an individual losing mental capacity, such as in this case, their loved ones have no automatic right to intervene and make sure the individual’s wishes are followed. Instead it falls to doctors to make best interest decisions about the individual – decisions that may be at odds with what that individual would have wanted.

“Fortunately, there is a way to help avoid situations like this – by making an Advance Decision. This is a legally binding document in which you can state what treatment you would want to refuse in case an injury or illness causes you to lose the ability to make or communicate these decisions in future. It allows you to remain in control of important decisions about your future healthcare and treatment, and it means your family won’t be left stranded and powerless in such a situation.

“We urge anyone with strong feelings about what treatment they would or wouldn’t want to plan ahead and make an Advance Decision. At Compassion in Dying we have developed a free, simple and straightforward form which can be completed online at mydecisions.org.uk or downloaded from our website, and specialist information and support is available on our free Info Line at 0800 999 2434.”

***ENDS***

Notes:

  • Compassion in Dying is a national charity (no. 1120203) that aims to support people at the end of life to have what they consider to be a good death by providing information and support around their legal rights and choices. We are a leading provider of free Advance Decisions in the UK and we also conduct and review research around patient rights and choices in end-of-life care.
  • Compassion in Dying is a charity that provides free support for people to plan ahead for a time that they may lack capacity to make decisions about their treatment including a Freephone information line 0800 999 2434.
  • Compassion in Dying developed www.mydecisions.org.uk which is a website the public can use for free to make a legally binding Advanced Decision or an Advance statement.