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UK News

Appeal judges suggest life-support treatment battle over Catholic man should end

by Press Association

Two Court of Appeal judges have raised concern about continued litigation focused on a middle-aged Catholic man who was at the centre of a life-support treatment dispute after falling into a coma.

A judge based in London ruled that ending life-support treatment was in the man's best interests nearly a month ago, at a hearing in the Court of Protection, after his wife said he would not want to be a burden and should be allowed to die.

The man's mother, sisters and niece, who are being supported by pro-life group the Christian Legal Centre, disagreed and said that, because of his Catholic beliefs, he would not have wanted his life to be terminated if it could be preserved.

His niece failed to persuade Court of Appeal judges to overturn Mr Justice Cohen's decision but has continued to fight.

She has asked Court of Appeal judges to allow another doctor to examine her uncle, and made an application to the European Court of Human Rights.

European judges have refused to grant "interim relief" and two Court of Appeal judges on Wednesday raised concern after dismissing her application to allow another doctor to investigate.

Lord Justice Peter Jackson said judges had to ensure that the man's best interests were not "prejudiced by continued unfounded challenges to lawful decisions".

The judge said the "variety of measures" employed by the man's "birth family" could not be allowed to distract attention from the wishes and feelings of the man, or from the "situation" of his wife and children.

He said the man's wife and children were "having to endure proceedings" which, on top of "his loss from their daily lives", must be must be "deeply distressing".

Lady Justice King agreed and added: "It is hard to contemplate the distress which must have been caused to the wife and children of (the man) by the continuation of these proceedings after this court had dismissed the application for permission to appeal from Mr Justice Cohen's original decision that it was in (the man's) best interests for all medical treatment to be withdrawn."

She told how treatment had been "withdrawn" and "reinstated" three times as a result of continuing litigation and said: "It is difficult to imagine a greater assault upon the dignity of this man."

Judges have ruled that the man, who is from Poland but lives in the West Country, cannot be named in media reports of the case.

Bosses at the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust have responsibility for the man's care and had asked Mr Justice Cohen to rule that ending life-support treatment would be lawful.

Judges sitting in the Court of Protection consider issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to take decisions for themselves.

Mr Justice Cohen, who also hears cases in the Family Division of the High Court, heard that the man had fallen into a coma several weeks ago after suffering brain damage.

Specialists treating the man said his condition would never improve significantly and thought life-support treatment should end.

His wife of nearly 20 years agreed but his mother, sisters and niece disagreed.

Mr Justice Cohen, who also heard evidence from independent medical experts, concluded that the man's wife knew more about his views, and decided that ending life-support treatment was in his best interests.

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