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Devastated Wife applies to the Court of Protection to end Husband’s Life

A devastated wife of a severely injured man has applied to the Court of Protection for permission to end his life. Paul Briggs, aged 43, was involved in a car accident in July 2015 and suffered severe injuries including a bleed on the brain, five fractures in his spine, bruising to internal organs and several other serious injuries in the collision and is being kept alive through medical intervention.

There is debate as to whether the medical evidence points to Mr Briggs being in a “minimally conscious state” or in a “vegetative state”.  Doctors wish for Mr Briggs to continue to receive life sustaining treatment as they think there is a chance his condition could be improved with further rehabilitation, although it is likely he would remain severely brain damaged and disabled.

Mr Briggs’ family do not agree with the doctors and say that Mr Briggs, a Gulf War veteran and a very active man prior to his accident, would find his condition to be “torture”.  His wife, Lindsay, said “I think he would see it as torture, just as hell. He would be living for no reason….Paul would say, ‘why am I subject to an experiment about what might happen but could well not happen?’”  She added, “he doesn’t recognise me, there’s nothing”.

This extremely difficult, expensive, and upsetting application to the Court could have been avoided if Mr Briggs, prior to his accident, had set up a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health & Welfare decisions and had chosen to give his wife (or whoever he decided to appoint as his attorney(s)) permission to refuse or consent to life-sustaining treatment.  This would have meant that the final say as to whether Mr Briggs continues to receive treatment would have been with his attorneys, and not the doctors.

Mr Briggs’ case is thankfully rare but it does serve to illustrate how these issues can potentially strike us at any time in life and so it is best to put things in place now just in case.

If you would like to discuss Lasting Powers of Attorney in more detail, please contact Georgina Roberts.