Can someone be forced to take medication? – The Hospital v JJ (2019)
16 December 2019 by Andrea Godfrey
Recently an application was made to the Court of Protection about a young man who shall be known as “JJ”. He is just about to celebrate his 24th birthday and at the time of the hearing, he was an inpatient in a Hospital (which has to remain anonymous). When he was diagnosed as diabetic a few months previous, he was given treatment by way of intravenous insulin and discharged with support. He was admitted again as his condition was worse but he refused treatment. The hospital staff physically restrained him and gave him the treatment because they considered his condition life-threatening. The treatment helped, however, a few weeks later he collapsed and was brought to the hospital. He would not take his medication (daily insulin injections) which resulted in him going into a state of diabetic ketoacidosis. This would be a life-threatening condition if untreated. A healthcare professional advised that he was weak and was at the point he would need “intensive care” treatment.
The Hospital made an application to Court requesting confirmation that they could use all reasonable methods including physical restraint to give him insulin and undertake all observations and monitoring of vital signs and physiological conditions. The application was on the basis that it was in his best interests to be able to restrain JJ if necessary because without medication he would die. The Judge in considering the application had evidence before him from various professionals including a consultant liaison psychiatrist and a diabetologist from the hospital.
The Court under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 has to assume JJ has capacity unless it is established that he lacks capacity. The court held that there was reason to believe that JJ lacked capacity in relation to the issues concerning his treatment. They, therefore, decided that it was in his best interests that he be treated in accordance with the Hospital’s plan.
If, due to lack of capacity, a person is unable to consent to or make decisions on medical matters, then someone else can make those decisions on their behalf as long as there is a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare in place (LPA). However, you have to have the capacity to make an LPA. If not then the only other way to obtain the right to make these decisions on someone’s behalf is to apply to the Court of Protection.
We have a specialist team at FJG who deal with matters relevant to the Court of Protection so please contact us if you need advice – call 01206 700113 or email [email protected].