NHS Cumbria CCG v Rushton  EWCOP 41
Withdrawal of CANH; advance decision "This is an application regarding the proposed withdrawal of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration in respect of Mrs Jillian Rushton, who is now 85 years of age. Since sustaining a traumatic head injury in December 2015, Mrs Rushton has suffered from a prolonged period of disorder of consciousness. Insofar as a label is relevant, the consensus of medical opinion, in respect of which there is no dissent at all, is that she is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). In their recent guidance, ‘Clinically-assisted nutrition and hydration (CANH) and adults who lack the capacity to consent’, the Royal College of Physicians and the British Medical Association have noted that the importance of obtaining a precise and definitive diagnosis has reduced. It is recognised by the Courts and clinicians that drawing a firm distinction between vegetative state and minimally conscious state is frequently both artificial and unnecessary. In practice, when assessing best interests, information about the patient’s current condition and prognosis for functional recovery and the level of confidence with which these can be evaluated is invariably of greater importance than a precise diagnosis. ... It perhaps requires to be said, though in my view it should be regarded as axiomatic, that the medical profession must give these advanced decisions the utmost care, attention and scrutiny. I am confident the profession does but I regret to say that I do not think sufficient care and scrutiny took place here. The lesson is an obvious one and needs no amplification. Where advanced decisions have been drawn up and placed with GP records there is an onerous burden on the GP to ensure, wherever possible, that they are made available to clinicians in hospital. By this I mean a copy of the decision should be made available and placed within the hospital records with the objective that the document should follow the patient. It need hardly be said that it will rarely, if ever, be sufficient to summarise an advance decision in a telephone conversation. ... The family have ... made it clear to me that she would not have regarded her present situation as tolerable. Whilst I have no doubt that she would understand the commitment of her son, Tim and his profound resistance to letting her go, I have equally no doubt that she would want to be let go and I have no hesitation in concluding that it is my responsibility to respect this."