Ali Alrazak, a law lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, revisits some of last year's Supreme Court judgments in our 8-part series Supreme Court cases that shaped family law in 2018.
Today: An NHS Trust and others v Y (by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor)  UKSC 46.
An NHS Trust and others v Y (by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor)  UKSC 46
When a decision is to be made in terms of withdrawing life-support from a patient with a prolonged disorder of consciousness, it is understood that a court order is generally “recommended” under Airedale NHS Trust v Bland  A.C. 789 as a matter of good practice. The Magistrates’ Court Act 2005 outlines that doctors should take into account the wishes of the patient themselves and their families. The Magistrates’ Court Act 2005 Code of Practice addresses applications to the court on this matter but is unclear as to whether this is a mandatory requirement.
The question therefore is whether there is a mandatory requirement to involve the court if there is no dispute between the family of the relevant patient and the doctors regarding the removal of life-support. The case of an NHS Trust and others v Y (by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) addressed this matter after the NHS Trust sought a declaration in the High Court that it was not mandatory to seek the court’s approval for the withdrawal of life-support if there was no dispute between the family of Mr Y and the clinical team.
Having reached the Supreme Court on appeal, it was held there was no mandatory provision in the common law or the European Convention on Human Rights as to whether the court had to be involved in deciding the removal of life-support where there was no dispute in medical opinion or family interests. The decision has been welcomed by charities that support patients in such circumstances and it is believed that this will reduce the amount of proceedings under the Court of Protection in the long term.