Bioethics Blogs

New Appellate Court Case on Medical Futility – In re A

Lady Justice King
Last week, the UK Court of Appeal decided another medical futility case in favor of treating clinicians.


2-year old A was badly injured in a traffic accident in November 2015.  He is completely unresponsive and makes no respiratory effort.  His brain is progressively atrophying.  Clinicians recommended withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.  While A’s father agreed, his mother did not.

The NHS Trust eventually made a court application.  On June 20, 2016, the High Court ruled that it was”in A’s best interest to remove his respiratory support.”  On July 13, 2016, the Court of Appeal affirmed.  

Notably, the pediatric intensivist treating A testified that this was “the first time in my twenty seven years” he was coming to court, because treatment was just “prolonging a suffering.”

The Court of Appeal first noted that the “law relating to applications to withdraw life sustaining treatment is now clear and well settled.”  As Bosslet, Baker, and I recently argued in Chest, this contrasts sharply with the situation in the United States.

The court endorsed the use of “balance sheets” to aid judgment of best interest.  It found that the trial judge properly evaluated the evidence on pain and on prospect for improvement.  

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.