Judge decides pensioner on hunger strike after child abuse allegation will not be force fed

An elderly man who has gone on hunger strike after being accused of historical child sex abuse must be presumed to have the mental capacity to make decisions about eating, a judge has decided.

The man, who is in his late 80s and has dementia, has been at the centre of litigation in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who may lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered.

Mr Justice Hayden had been asked to decide whether the man had the mental capacity to make decisions about eating and about whether he should be fed through a tube against his will to keep him alive.

The judge said on Wednesday, after analysing evidence at the latest hearing in London, that, legally, people were presumed to have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

He said he was not satisfied that the presumption of capacity had been “rebutted”, in relation to decisions about eating, in the man’s case.

Mr Justice Hayden said social services staff and medics should draw up a care plan which respected the man’s autonomy and dignity.

“Ultimately, I have to be satisfied that the presumption of capacity has been rebutted,” he said.

“I am not able to reach that conclusion.”

At an earlier hearing, the judge had said the man was entitled to starve himself to death if he wanted to.

“If he wants to starve himself to death, and that is his view, then that is his entitlement,” the judge had said.

“The Court of Protection is not here simply to protect people from outcomes that we don’t like.

“It is also here to protect their autonomy.”

The man, who is currently in hospital, lives in a care home.

He had been moved out of his home in the wake of concerns about his living conditions.

Mr Justice Hayden said evidence showed that the man did not have the mental capacity to make decisions about where he should live.

He said the case was “extremely difficult”.

The judge had been told how the man, a father-of-two, went on “hunger strike” after learning that police had begun an investigation into allegations of historical child sex abuse.

There were a number of alleged victims, including the man’s daughter, the judge heard.

He said the man, who lives in a care home in the South West of England, could not be identified in media reports of the case.

The judge heard submissions from lawyers representing the man, doctors and council social services bosses with responsibility for the man’s care.

Lawyers representing the man initially launched litigation after he said he wanted to leave a care facility and return home.

Issues relating to his hunger strike then arose.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Nick Ansell / PA wire.

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