Dignity, Death and Deprivation of Liberty: Human Rights in the Court of Protection

Wednesday’s debate on current key topics in the Court of Protection was a hard-hitting discussion on matters which elicit strong views, such as voluntary euthanasia, assisted suicide, the role of “dignity” and “sanctity of life”, and whether the latter two principles can ever be reconciled.

The fact that these are not essentially legal issues was underscored by the inclusion of ethics philosopher on the interventionist panel, Professor Anthony Grayling, who fielded the questions put to him alongside Philip Havers QC and Leigh Day solicitor Richard Stein. A video of the event will shortly be available on the 1 Crown Office Row website so I shall try to refrain from any spoilers, but here is a brief trailer to whet the appetite for a full recapitulation.

The evening started with a consideration of the Nicklinson and Martin cases, on voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide respectively. There were a number of questions put to the panel which essentially rolled up into this:

Should voluntary euthanasia be a possible defence to murder, or can we justify action with a primary purpose of killing a person on the grounds of preventing that person’s harm or suffering?

The panel was broadly in agreement that it should. Richard Stein observed that the argument that there can never be adequate safeguards to protect the vulnerable  is being used as a “smokescreen”, and, equally, the notion that disabled people cannot exercise their free will to die because it reduces the value of disabled lives is a “hugely patronising” one. Continue reading

Severely disabled man’s care plan not a deprivation of liberty – Court of Appeal

Chester West and Chester Council v. P (by his Litigation Friend the Official Solicitor) [2011] EWCA Civ 1257 – Read judgment / Lucy Series’ commentary

When assessing whether a patient’s care deprives him or her of their liberty, and thereby entitles them to the procedural protections under Article 5 (4) ECHR, the right to liberty, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the appropriate comparator is an individual with the same disabilities and difficulties who is not in care. The court also provided useful general guidance for deprivation of liberty cases.

P is a 39 year old man with Cerebral Palsy and Down’s Syndrome who lacks the capacity to make decisions about his care and residence arrangements as a result of his physical and learning disabilities.

Continue reading

Are we truly free?

P and Q by the Official Solicitor, their Litigation Friend v Surrey County Council and Others (Equality and Human Rights Commission, Intervener) [2011] EWCA Civ 190- read judgment

What does it mean to be “deprived of liberty”? This is not an easy question, and there are a wide variety of relevant factors. For instance, the amount of space a person is free to roam in, the degree of supervision and the amount of time away from their main residence are matters which are likely to vary greatly from case to case. There are many borderline cases.

In an important recent case, the Court of Appeal has found that there was no deprivation of liberty, within the meaning of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, when two people with moderate to severe learning difficulties are cared for in a foster home and a specialist home for adolescents respectively.

Continue reading

Deprivation of liberty must be regularly reviewed

BJ (Incapacitated Adult) sub nom Salford City Council V BJ (By His Litigation Friend The Official Solicitor) [2009] EWHC 3310 (Fam) – Read judgment

Where there is a deprivation of liberty within the meaning of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, regular reviews by the court are not merely desirable but essential.

This case concerned the application of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights to the ongoing review of the continuing detention of persons lacking capacity.  The individual in question was a 23 year old man, BJ.  As BJ lacked capacity, it was found that his best interests would be served by his continued residence at a location referred to as “MH”.

As such, the care plan devised by the local authority and approved by Lord Justice Munby (in the original hearing of 16 May 2008), required the deprivation of BJ’s liberty within the meaning of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Summary

Given that BJ was being deprived of his liberty, Article 5 required a review by the court of the lawfulness of his detention at ‘reasonable intervals’. Munby LJ had set out the frequency and nature of any review at the previous hearing and at paragraph 10 of this judgment the LJ again highlighted the importance of regular reviews in such circumstances,

Continue reading