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Court grants woman who had lost her 'sparkle' right to die

Posted on 04 December 2015

Court grants woman who had lost her 'sparkle' right to die

Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v C and V [2015] EWCOP 80

The Court of Protection has ruled that a woman - referred to in the case as 'C' - who wanted to die after losing what she called her "sparkly" lifestyle, is entitled to refuse lifesaving medical treatment.

The Court heard how C was a woman focused on looks, men, money and living the high life.  Her life was characterised by "impulsive and self-centred decision making without guilt or regret".  It was stated that C had four marriages and a number of affairs, moving on from each when things got difficult or the money ran out.  She feared the prospect of growing old, losing her looks and living without material possessions.

In the last year of C's life, things took a downturn:  she was diagnosed with breast cancer, went through an acrimonious break-up, lost her business and home and got into significant debt. 

C attempted suicide with sixty paracetamol tablets and a bottle of champagne, causing acute kidney damage which required renal dialysis.  When she refused treatment, the NHS trust applied to court pursuant to s4A and s15 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for a declaration that C lacked capacity to make decisions about her medical care and treatment and that they be authorised to administer the treatment without her consent.

After considering evidence from three psychiatrists and two of C's daughters (who supported C's decision), the Judge found, on the balance of probabilities, that C had the mental capacity to decide whether or not to consent to the proposed treatment.  While the Judge acknowledged that C's decision to refuse treatment was an unwise one, and one which does not accord with the expectations of many in society, he said C was entitled to make her own decision based upon her own value systems and personality, whether or not that conformed to society's expectation of a 'normal' decision.   

While the background facts to this case may seem shocking to many, the legal position remains unchanged.  This is not a case of assisted suicide, which remains a criminal offence, but about personal autonomy in matters of medical treatment.  No matter how unusual an individual's decision to refuse medical treatment may seem, if that person has capacity then they are entitled to make that decision and that right extends to declining treatment that would save their life.