Compassion in Dying has responded to today’s news that the family of Mrs Brenda Grant of Nuneaton, Warwickshire has received a £45,000 payout from The George Eliot Hospital after she received life-prolonging treatment against her will for 22 months.

Natalie Koussa, Director of Partnerships & Services at Compassion in Dying:

“This tragic case highlights how much there is still to be done to ensure that someone’s wishes for care and treatment are respected. Our thoughts go out to Mrs Grant’s family, who have seen their loved one endure treatment against her wishes for almost two years.

“Mrs Grant clearly felt strongly about not having her life prolonged in a condition that she deemed unacceptable and had rightly decided to record these wishes in a living will, also known as an Advance Decision. Doctors are legally bound to follow the wishes set out in a valid Advance Decision, yet failings by those responsible for Ms Grant’s care meant that her wishes were ignored, causing her to receive life-prolonging treatment against her wishes.

“This case should serve as a wake-up call for NHS trusts and other health and social care providers that there is an urgent need to improve record keeping for advance decisions, ensure joined-up working amongst staff and communicate with the family of patients in their care. We welcome the George Eliot Hospital Trust’s decision to begin recording the existence of an advance decision on the front page of a patient’s notes, but more must be done. There are systemic changes that must happen if we are to achieve truly person-centred care, such as the development of record sharing systems accessible to multidisciplinary teams in a range of healthcare settings which highlight patients’ wishes and preferences, including the existence of a legally binding Advance Decision.

“There are also things that individuals can do, such as notifying friends and family members of your Advance Decision and the contents of it. You can also make a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare, in which you can nominate someone you trust to make care and treatment decision on your behalf should you become incapacitated in future. We encourage anyone who has strong feelings about their future care and treatment to plan ahead and record your wishes. Compassion in Dying is here to help you do so – we provide free specialist information and support to people about their rights and choices at the end of life via our free info line (0800 999 2434) and website.”

***ENDS***

For further information or interview requests, please contact Ellie Ball, Media & Campaigns Officer, at ellie.ball@compassionindying.org.uk or 0207 479 7732

Notes to Editor:
An Advance Decision (to Refuse Treatment), also known as a Living Will, or an Advance Directive in Scotland, is a legal way of recording your wish to refuse life-prolonging medical treatment in certain circumstances, to be followed if you lose capacity to make or communicate decisions about your treatment or care in future through injury or illness. There is no standard Advance Decision format, rather there are just requirements any Advance Decision must meet to be valid. If it does so it must be legally respected by a doctor. Compassion in Dying is the UK’s leading provider of free Advance Decisions.

A Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare allows you to give one or more trusted persons the legal power to make decisions about your health and welfare if you lose capacity. The person who grants power is known as the ‘Donor’ and the person appointed to make decisions is the ‘Attorney’.

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 also conduct and review research around patient rights and choices in end-of-life care.

Compassion in Dying provides free support for people to plan ahead for a time that they may lack capacity to make decisions about their treatment, including via a Freephone information line 0800 999 2434 and www.mydecisions.org.uk, a website the public can use for free to make a legally binding Advanced Decision or an Advance Statement.