Judges urge comatose man's mother to accept ruling to let him die

Appeal Court judges urge comatose middle-aged Catholic man’s mother to stop fighting court’s decision to switch off his life support after his wife argued he should be allowed to die

  • A judge had ruled that allowing the heart attack victim to die was in his interests 
  • Wife said he should be taken off life support as he wouldn’t want to be burden 
  • This was disputed by man’s mother, sisters and niece who have resisted ruling 

A comatose man’s Catholic family has been urged by judges to end their fight to keep him alive and respect his wife’s wishes to take him off life-support. 

A London judge ruled in December that allowing the heart attack victim to die was in his best interests after hearing from his wife that he would not want to be a burden.

This was disputed by the man’s mother, sisters and niece, who argued that, because of his Catholic beliefs, he would not have wanted to die if his life could be preserved.

Their challenge, which was backed by pro-life group the Christian Legal Centre, was thrown out of the Court of Appeal, but the niece has since tried other avenues to overturn the ruling.

After her most recent failed appeal attempt, judges urged the man’s family to back down as the row would be proving ‘deeply distressing’ for his wife and children.  

One judge branded the wrangling over his life an ‘assault upon the dignity of this man’. 

Lord Justice Peter Jackson

Lady Justice King

Lord Justice Peter Jackson and Lady Justice King urged the man’s family to back down as the row would be proving ‘deeply distressing’ for his wife and children

A London judge ruled in December that allowing the heart attack victim to die was in his best interests after hearing from his wife that he would not want to be a burden (stock image)

A London judge ruled in December that allowing the heart attack victim to die was in his best interests after hearing from his wife that he would not want to be a burden (stock image) 

The middle-aged man, who is from Poland but lives in the West Country and cannot be identified, suffered a cardiac arrest in November last year, during which his heart stopped for at least 45 minutes, causing ‘severe and irreversible’ brain damage.

Lord Justice Peter Jackson said today that judges had to ensure that his 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.’ 

A comatose man's Catholic family has been urged by judges to end their fight to keep him alive and respect his wife's wishes to take him off life-support (stock image)

A comatose man’s Catholic family has been urged by judges to end their fight to keep him alive and respect his wife’s wishes to take him off life-support (stock image) 

After the niece’s initial appeal was rejected, she continued trying to overturn the ruling and appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to intervene, but European judges refused to grant ‘interim relief’. 

She further asked Court of Appeal judges to allow another doctor to examine her uncle, but this was also refused. 

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, who lives in Poland, 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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