Z v University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust & Ors

11 January 2021

A decision by Mr Justice Cohen in the Court of Protection, which reiterated his previous decision to end life sustaining treatment for RS, an unconscious man in a vegetative state. This application had been brought by RS’s estranged birth family, who argued that RS would wish to be kept alive based on his Catholic faith and who sought to move him to Poland.

RS is a middle-aged Polish man who, after suffering a cardiac arrest on 6 November 2020, has at best a 10-20% chance of progressing to the lowest end of a minimally conscious state (called MCS-minus). At that state, he might have been able to acknowledge the presence of a human being, but without being able to demonstrate knowing who they were. Prior to an application by the hospital responsible for RS's care – University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust – to the Court of Protection for permission to discontinue his life-sustaining treatment, RS was previously being kept alive by clinically-assisted nutrition and hydration (CANH) and other life-sustaining treatment.

His wife told Cohen J that from her conversations with RS, she was certain that "he would never have wanted to have been kept alive if he could not be helped and he would not have ever wanted to be a burden" (para 3(vii)). His birth family, who had been estranged and not seen RS for at least 9 years, felt that "his strong Catholic faith would mean that the sanctity of life would triumph over all other considerations" (para 3(vii)).

Read the full summary on Family Law Week.