Wife asks Court to stop life supporting treatment for her policeman husband
8 November 2016 by Andrea Godfrey
Paul Briggs aged 43 years was a policeman and army veteran but has been in a coma since he had a motorbike accident in July 2015. He was involved in a head-on collision with another motorist Chelsea Rowe in Birkenhead, as she swerved onto the wrong side of the road for reasons she cannot explain and for which she was later jailed for a year.
Paul suffered serious injuries which included a bleed on the brain and several fractures to his spine which left him in a coma.
His wife Lindsey made an application to the Court of Protection last week for an order to be made that his life support be turned off. In her application she relied on Paul’s previous wishes. The Court of Protection sits to decide cases relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. Normally the Court will not reveal the identities of parties however as the accident has been reported widely and no-one has asked for anonymity, the Judge said that Paul can be named.
Pauls’ own doctors do not support the application because they say he has been diagnosed as being “in a minimally conscious state”. They stated to the Court that Paul should be transferred to “a specialist rehabilitation placement” on the grounds that he “would benefit from a more socially stimulating environment”. However wife Lindsey is relying on the evidence of another independent doctor who has diagnosed Paul as “being in a permanent vegetative state”.
It is reported that his life expectancy is nine years, but if his current course of treatment were to be stopped then this would probably reduce to 2 weeks.
Paul Briggs had not made any advance decision in writing or completed a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney which is a document expressing what should happen in circumstances as they are now.
The Court of Protection are expected to announce their decision shortly.
The case is a stark reminder that if you have strong feelings or views as to what treatment you should have or not have, you should plan ahead by preparing either an advanced decision or a Lasting Power of Attorney. This gives you the opportunity to appoint someone to make those decision for you, which you can record and discuss with them in advance. This will ensure that any of your wishes are adhered to. If you do not have a Lasting Power of Attorney, the doctors, whilst having to take into account your relatives’ views, will have the final say. You may disagree (just as Paul’s wife does) and their decisions can be challenged through the Court of Protection – but this is very costly, time-consuming and emotional.