Lawyers representing Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have announced that a 34-year-old patient known as 'MSP' has died after being removed from life support following a last-minute legal decision.
MSP, 34, who had a history of serious bowel problems, had previously said he would prefer to die rather than live with a permanent stoma - a surgical opening to allow digestive waste to be collected. However, according to lobby group Christian Concern, when presented with the prospect of losing his life, on 27th May MSP subsequently changed his mind and opted to have the operation in order to survive.
Following the surgery, which left MSP in intensive care, a Court of Protection judge ultimately ruled that medical staff were permitted to remove life-support treatment from him and allow him to die in accordance with his original wishes.
Justice Hayden wrote: "There is no doubt in my mind that he had come to a clear and entirely settled decision that he was not prepared to contemplate life with a stoma."
He noted that MSP's situation was "not a case about choosing to die," but instead "about an adult's capacity to shape and control the end of his life."
The judge added that MSP had made "a practical, utilitarian calculation that life in these circumstances is not what he wants."
The court is given the jurisdiction to rule on cases in which the subject lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions. The parents of MSP said they desired to see their son's wishes respected, noting that he "hated" living with a temporary stoma bag following a previous operation.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said that the court's action was an "absolute horror" and claims that the judge ignored MSP's final decision to live.
She explained: “This case is nothing short of a tragedy. It was clear from the evidence of the case that this was a young man who was struggling to come to grips with his illness, but who was also vulnerable and had a history of self-harming and bi-polar disorder. Despite that, when he was faced with the biggest existential crisis of his life, whether he should live or he should die, he chose life. Mr Justice Hayden admits that M.S.P was fully competent to give his consent to the procedure but chose to override that consent.
“For a court of law to decide that a 34-year-old man who asked for a procedure to be done and who would have had some level of meaningful recovery would nonetheless be sedated and then deprived of hydration and food until he died is an absolute horror. Let’s be clear, on the basis of the judgment, Mr Justice Hayden decided to override the express wishes of a patient with the ability to recover and ordered him to die.
“The Christian Legal Centre made every effort to have the case reviewed, petitioning the appropriate authorities, including the Official Solicitor, to act with urgency to do so. MSP’s death is a devastating moment which should chill us all to the bone.”
Judge Hayden added that the identity of MSP should be protected for three months after his death.
He wrote: "Having heard argument, including on behalf of the press, I consider that the anonymity of MSP should be protected for the remainder of his life and for a period of three months following his death.
"In the particular circumstances of this case and bearing in mind the extent to which MSP wanted to conceal his stoma from the world, I consider this strikes the appropriate balance between the competing Article 10 (ECHR) and Article 8 rights which are engaged and in which both have parity."
In response to the ruling, The Christian Legal Centre has written to Sarah Castle, the Official Solicitor at the Ministry of Justice, urging her to challenge the decision with the Court of Appeal.