Bioethics Blogs

British Courts Adjudicate Medical Futility Cases

Justice Hayden

I just posted two new medical futility cases decided and published by British courts at the end of June 2015.  

Like nearly 40 other British cases, these directly and meaningfully grapple with whether disputed treatment is in the best interests of an incapacitated patient.  I am not aware of any other jurisdiction in the world with so much medical futility jurisprudence.

The judges in these two cases reached opposite results.  In P&Q, Justice MacDonald  ruled that it was not in the interests of a 40-year-old man to have his renal replacement therapy withdrawn where he was not in a PVS but in a MCS.  The treatment was not overly burdensome.  He derived pleasure and comfort from his family.  So, the judge concluded that the weight of the evidence clearly fell on one side.  

In contrast, in MH, Justice Hayden ruled that it was lawful for clinicians to withhold intubation and ventilation from a 9-year-old girl.  The father was being “entirely unrealistic.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.