The “socialite” who rejected life saving treatment

why_we_need_kidney_dialysis_1904_xKing’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v C and another  [2015] EWCOP 80 read judgment

A woman who suffered kidney failure as a result of a suicide attempt has been allowed to refuse continuing dialysis. The Court of Protection rejected the hospital’s argument that such refusal disclosed a state of mind that rendered her incapable under the Mental Capacity Act.  An adult patient who suffers from no mental incapacity has an absolute right to choose whether to consent to medical treatment. Continuation of such treatment is unlawful, even if the refusal seems irrational to others. As the judge said, this rule

reflects the value that society places on personal autonomy in matters of medical treatment and the very long established right of the patient to choose to accept or refuse medical treatment from his or her doctor (voluntas aegroti suprema lex). Over his or her own body and mind, the individual is sovereign (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859).

The Trust’s further application to be allowed to restrain C “physically or chemically” from leaving the hospital where she was receiving the dialysis was therefore rejected.

Background facts

The coverage of this case reflects a certain level of social disapproval. “Right to die for socialite scared of growing old” – “Socialite allowed to die was terrified of being poor” run the headlines. Behind them lurks an essentially religious consensus that people should not be allowed to opt out of senescence and its associated poverty and suffering, such matters being for God alone.  There is also a measure of censoriousness behind the  details brought to court regarding C’s attitude to motherhood and men, the news that she had breast cancer, her love of “living the high life” and her dread of growing old “in a council house”. Continue reading

The Human Genome and Human Rights recommendations: “aspirational and symbolic”

DNA database impact on human rightsThe International Bioethics Committee, under the auspices of UNESCO, has recently updated its guidance on the human genome and human rights. The Report of the IBC on Updating its Reflection on the Human Genome and Human Rights was published in October 2015, and takes into account the  Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights (1997), the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data (2003) and the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005). The following summary is based on Alison Hall’s review of the recommendations in the PHG Foundation’s bulletin.

The IBC’s report attempts to review all the relevant ethical challenges for regulating genetic research and clinical care across national boundaries. The area that has received most coverage in the press involves the emerging techniques for editing the human genome, in particular engineering gametes. The other four areas of application the IBC has chosen for review are:

Direct-to-consumer genetic tests and genetic analysis that is not related to health care
Precision/personalised medicine
Biobanks (banks of genetic information)
Non-invasive prenatal testing Continue reading

The Magna Carta, Then and Now: Public Lecture

National Archives Displays An Original Copy Of Magna CartaIn celebration of UN Human Rights Day on 10 December, Professor David Carpenter will be giving a lecture at Queen Mary University London.

David Carpenter is a Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London and author of ‘Magna Carta’, published by Penguin Classics.

Magna Carta, forced on King John in 1215 by rebellion, is one of the most famous documents in world history. It asserts a fundamental principle: that the ruler is subject to the law. David Carpenter’s commentary draws on new discoveries to give an entirely fresh account of Magna Carta’s text, origins, survival and enforcement, showing how it quickly gained a central place in English political life. Continue reading

Buzzards should not be protected any more than herring gulls and cormorants: High Court

buzzard06McMorn (R, on the application of) v Natural England [2015] EWHC 3297 (Admin) – read judgment

Public opinion regarding raptors and pheasant shoots should not influence the authorisation of buzzard control, the Administrative Court has ruled. Any derogations to the EU protection of wild birds should apply equally across wild avian species, irrespective of their popularity.

This was a gamekeeper’s challenge to the refusal by the defendant statutory body (Natural England) to grant him a licence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to kill buzzards which he said were destroying such high numbers of game birds as to render his shoot unviable.

At the heart of the claimant’s challenge was his contention that NE treated raptors differently from other wild birds, making it far harder, well-nigh if not quite impossible, for anyone to meet the statutory conditions for the issue of a licence.
He maintained the defendant treated these licence applications differently because of the public controversy which the grant of a licence for the killing of buzzards would engender. This was because of perceived adverse public opinion about the protection of a pheasant shoot. Hence, the decision was based on unjustified inconsistencies in NE’s treatment of raptor and other birds equally protected under the law.  Continue reading

Suing Facebook is no easy matter

facebook_logoRichardson v Facebook [2015] EWHC 3154 (2 November 2015) – read judgment

An action in defamation and under the right to privacy against Facebook has been dismissed in the High Court. The Facebook entity named as defendant did not “control” the publication so as to allow liability; and even if it did, no claim under the Human Rights Act could lie against FB as it could not be described as any sort of a public authority for the purposes of Section 6 of the Act.

The claimant, acting as a litigant in person, sought damages in respect of the publication in 2013 and 2014 of a Facebook profile and a posting on the Google Blogger service. The Profile and the Blogpost each purported to have been created by the claimant, but she complained that each was a fake, created by an impostor. She claimed that each was defamatory of her, and infringed her right to respect for her private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Continue reading

Management consultant charges mother £400 for each visit to nursing home – Court of Protection

Court of protectionSF, Re [2015] EWCOP 68 (26 October 2015) – read judgment

This Court of Protection case has, unusually, made the papers, and when you read the details you won’t be surprised. What the judge described as a “callous and calculating” son charged his widowed mother, who suffered from dementia, more than £117 000 for “out of pocket expenses” visiting her in her nursing home.  He had been in charge of her expenses since 2004 when Sheila (the mother) had been admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. But alarm bells only went off after her unpaid nursing bills reached nearly £30 000. The Public Guardian launched an enquiry that led to this hearing of an application for the court to revoke the son’s  (Martin’s) Enduring Power of Attorney (‘EPA’) and to direct him to cancel its registration. The Public Guardian also applied to freeze Sheila’s bank account. Continue reading

Transparency in the Family Court: judge allows publication of article about children in care

Fountain pen on a blank page open on a diary book...

Fountain pen on a blank page open on a diary book…

Tickle v Council of the Borough of North Tyneside and others [2015] EWHC 2991 (Fam) (19 October 2015) – read judgment

Before the court were cross applications by a journalist and the local authority regarding care proceedings which the former wished to report. The individual in question was a mother (representing herself in these proceedings) who had had a number of children taken into care in the past. Her life had been “blighted” historically by serious mental health problems which have at times made it unsafe for her to care for her children. At the time of this application, it seemed, those times appeared to be behind her. Be that as it may, she and her children had been through the care system on a number of occasions.

She had shared this experience on social media sites, and had described, in particular, how she fought for her youngest child (a child who was removed at birth) and how she eventually succeeded in having that child live with her. Bodey J, who had read some of her online articles,  found them “balanced and responsible”. Continue reading