Judge tells doctors they can withdraw life-support treatment from former care worker

A judge has told doctors they can stop providing life-support treatment to a brain-damaged woman who had worked as a carer for disabled people.

Mrs Justice Gwynneth Knowles heard that the woman, who is in her 50s, had spent much of the past decade in a specialist unit.

The judge said members of the woman’s family and treating doctors all thought that the woman, who also has a number of physical difficulties, should be allowed to die.

She said she had “considered anxiously” whether there was a factor which might “tip the balance” in favour of prolonging the woman’s life, before approving a plan to implement a palliative care regime.

The judge analysed the case at a hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who do not have the mental capacity to make decisions are considered, in London on Monday.

She said the woman could not be identified.

The woman’s sister, who lives in Ireland and had instructed lawyers on her behalf, had argued that treatment and feeding by artificial means should end.

Bosses at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust have responsibility for the woman’s care and had initially asked a Court of Protection judge for a ruling on future treatment.

A barrister representing the trust said the case raised some complex issues.

Bridget Dolan QC said the woman was at times “alert and awake” and at times “lucid”.

She said one specialist had initially not been sure that feeding by artificial means should stop.

Mrs Justice Knowles also heard that the woman sometimes smiled at care staff and enjoyed listening to music.

The judge said the woman had suffered a brain injury in 2008.

She said the woman suffered from a range of physical problems, including diabetes, depression, communication difficulties, and required help with every aspect of her personal care.

Doctors said her health problems would deteriorate.

The woman pulled out feeding tubes, which had to be re-inserted under general anaesthetic, and sometimes had to be restrained by care staff.

She had also said, when working as a carer for the disabled, that she would never “want to be like that”.

Mrs Justice Knowles said she was satisfied, after analysing evidence, that the plan agreed by everyone involved was right.

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