Judges put pressure on doctors over treatment - UK - News - The Independent

Judges put pressure on doctors over treatment

DOCTORS can no longer accept at face value a patient's decision to accept or reject life-saving treatment, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

In the first case to question an adult's constitutional right to choose, in effect, life or death, the appeal judges placed new duties of care on doctors.

Lord Donaldson, the Master of the Rolls, ruled that while patients maintain an absolute right to refuse life-saving treatment, doctors must ensure the refusal is genuine, taken after full consultation about the consequences, and not made under the undue influence of others. If in doubt, doctors must ask the courts to intervene.

But the new guidelines - which included the drawing up of new consent/refusal documents - were immediately criticised by the Official Solicitor, David Venables, who is to challenge them in the House of Lords, and by doctors' professional bodies, who fear patients' rights have been undermined and that doctors have been faced with an impossible task.

Mr Venables said: 'I am concerned that the ruling might leave sick patients - for example those with cancer who may decide they have had enough and choose to end painful, unpleasant treatments - with the belief that their wishes could be overridden.'

He said that 'placing a forensic duty on a medical team created great problems for doctors'.

Dr Natalie-Jane Macdonald, head of ethics at the British Medical Association, said: 'The judgment has worrying implications for doctors and their relationships with patients. Reaching decisions in these cases is always hard and can be very sensitive. Doctors are suddenly being asked to take on an investigative rather than a caring role. How far are they supposed to go in discovering who may have had an influence on a patient and whether that amounted to undue influence?'

The guidelines were set out by Lord Donaldson, when he was giving detailed reasons for last week's decision that a 20-year-old woman - identified only as 'T' - should be given blood transfusions, despite her apparent written refusal. Since that decision, the condition of the woman - suffering complications following the still-birth of her baby - has improved slightly but she remains critically ill.

It was alleged that while the woman was not a Jehovah's Witness, her mother was a devout follower of the faith and wrongly persuaded her daughter to refuse blood transfusions. Witnesses oppose medical use of blood.

It was T's non-Witness father who won the court ruling overriding his daughter's refusal because of the undue influence of the mother and because T may have been lulled into a false sense of security about the availability of alternative treatments.

The Official Solicitor, who was called in to represent T's interests when she became unconscious, had unsuccessfully argued that her wishes should be paramount.

Yesterday, Lord Donaldson, sitting with Lords Justice Butler- Sloss and Staughton, said: 'Society's interest is in upholding the concept that all human life is sacred and that it should be preserved if at all possible.'

Law report, page 22

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week