Judge suggests hospitals too slow to ask for ruling on mentally capacity of cancer patient
Hospital bosses took too long to ask for a court decision on how a mentally-ill pensioner suffering from skin cancer should be treated, a judge has suggested.
Mr Justice Hayden said the delay might mean that a life which could have been saved was lost.
The judge has described the woman’s case as a “tragedy” and “profoundly troubling”.
He outlined his concerns in a ruling delivered on Monday after hearings in the specialist Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions are analysed, in London.
The judge said the woman, who is in her early 70s, could not be identified in media reports of the case.
He said bosses at the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust had responsibilities for her care and had asked him to make rulings about treatment.
A GP had suspected skin cancer in late 2018 and referred the woman, who has a history of mental health difficulties, to specialists working for Sherwood Forest Hospitals trust, the judge said.
Specialists had confirmed the GP’s suspicions.
In mid-2019 the woman had been assessed as lacking the mental capacity to make her own decisions about treatment.
But a Court of Protection judge had not been asked to decide what treatment was in her best interests until a few days before Christmas.
“I do not doubt that all those involved in her care have been concerned to do the right thing for her, but it requires to be confronted that the delay in this case may mean that a life is lost that could well have been saved,” said Mr Justice Hayden.
“That is quite simply a tragedy. It is also profoundly troubling.”
He added: “It is self-evident and, indeed, striking, that time here was of the essence and delay was likely to be inimical to (her) welfare.
“Not only inimical but… potentially fatal.”
The judge ruled that the woman was unable to “weigh and evaluate” treatment options, and endorsed a treatment plan put forward by specialists at the two trusts.
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