Judges prevent journalists from naming pensioner at centre of dementia care case

Three Court of Appeal judges have refused to allow journalists to name a pensioner who is in the “end stage” of dementia and has been at the centre of a dispute in the specialist Court of Protection.

Lady Justice Arden, Lady Justice Sharp and Lord Justice Peter Jackson have upheld a ruling made by a judge following a Court of Protection hearing in London earlier this year.

They said there were “occasional cases” where people at the centre of Court of Protection proceedings could be named but said the pensioner’s case did not fall into that category.

Judges in the Court of Protection analyse issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

They normally cast a veil of anonymity over people at the centre of cases on the grounds that publicity would unfairly infringe the human right to respect for private and family life.

But the pensioner’s four sons had said an exception should be made.

They said publicity would allow them to properly air their complaints about the way their father, who is 77, has been cared for in hospital and they said he was a “fighter” who would have wanted the dispute over his care discussed in public.

The four brothers said their father would be at looked after at home in the last stages of his life and would suffer no harm or indignity if named in media reports.

They also said allowing him to be named would help stimulate proper debate about issues surrounding the care of dementia sufferers.

Mrs Justice Parker had ruled against the brothers, following a Court of Protection hearing in London earlier this year, and Lady Justice Arden, Lady Justice Sharp, and Lord Justice Jackson have upheld her ruling after analysing issues at a Court of Appeal hearing in London in April.

“Individuals and families coming before the Court of Protection in often extreme circumstances should not have the further worry that they are likely to be identified to the public at large,” said Lord Justice Jackson.

“There will be occasional cases … where individuals are named.”

He added: “There is no dependable evidence that (the pensioner) would want his most private information to be identified to the world at large, and any grievances expressed by his sons … are theirs, not his.”

The underlying dispute had centred on end-of-life care.

Bosses at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust asked Mrs Justice Parker to let medics stop artificially providing nutrition and hydration to the pensioner and allow him to “die with dignity”.

Specialists said the pensioner could live for between six months and a year if he continued to be fed by artificial means.

But they said feeding the man through a tube was “invasive” and an unfair burden.

They said he should be allowed to go home but said there was “no benefit” in simply prolonging his life through artificial feeding.

The man’s sons disagreed.

They want him to leave hospital and be fed through a tube at his home until he “naturally passes away”.

The four men say they can oversee feeding and care with the help of community medics.

Mrs Justice Parker ruled in favour of doctors and the three Court of Appeal judges have also upheld that ruling.

Four years ago a Court of Protection judge ruled that an 89-year-old former Labour politician who suffered from dementia, and wanted to be looked after in the flat where she had lived for 60 years because she was “miserable” in a care home, could be identified.

Manuela Sykes, who had been a member of Westminster City Council in London and had stood for Parliament, had wanted to be named.

Judge Anselm Eldergill, who analysed the case at hearing in London, ruled that Ms Sykes, who died in 2017 aged 92, could return home on a trial basis and said journalists could name her.

The judge said his decision to lift the “usual veil of anonymity” had been “finely balanced”.

But he said the case was “relatively unusual” and Ms Sykes’ personality was a critical factor.

He said she had always “wished to be heard”, would want her life to end with a “bang not a whimper”, and should have a “last chance to exert a political influence”.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Nick Ansell / PA Wire.