Right to die action moots role of parents

Euthanasia litigation is set to return to the courts.

It is established that courts will grant declarations for health authorities to end life support for victims in a persistent vegetative state (PVS).

Now leave has been given for judicial review to be sought over a decision not to treat or resuscitate a 23-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer if his condition deteriorates.

The case is to be heard by a High Court Family Division judge and will almost certainly go before Family Division president Sir Stephen Brown.

In addition to suffering cerebral palsy, the man at the centre of the case, identified by the initial 'A', also has malformation of the brain and suffers severe epilepsy. The social worker responsible for him, whose identity has not been revealed, is seeking to challenge policy decisions taken in the case by South Buckinghamshire NHS Trust.

A DNR (do not resuscitate) policy was introduced by the trust in September last year.

Under the policy, cardiopulmonary resuscitation is not used on patients who have been listed DNR on the basis of an "unacceptable quality of life".

A's parents have consented to him being listed in this way.

Granting leave for judicial review, Mr Justice McCullough said the case is one that raises matters of "great public importance". He was told that A is not thought to be suffering or in pain.

Lawyers behind the challenge will argue that the DNR policy is unlawful and irrational and not in the best interest of A.

A's solicitor, Stephen Cragg from the Public Law Project, a national charity founded to increase access to public law remedies for disadvantaged groups, said that the trust has "no right to decide whether a person's quality of life is unacceptable or not".

In arguments expected to form the basis of the review application, Cragg said that although the views of parents are important, they have no power to decide whether their son should live or die.

He said it is a test case that is likely to lay down important guidelines.

"It will be the first to decide whether quality of life per se can be the basis on which treatment can be withdrawn from a patient," he said.