Judge rules NHS trust involved in legal battle over teenager’s care can be named

An NHS trust previously involved in a legal battle over whether a 19-year-old could be moved onto palliative care can now be named, a High Court judge has ruled.

Sudiksha Thirumalesh, who had a rare mitochondrial disorder, died on September 12 during a court fight between her family and doctors over her care and what was in her best interests.

In a judgment on Friday, Mr Justice Peel said University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust could now be named as the trust which looked after Ms Thirumalesh, who was known as ST during the proceedings.

But the judge said that the identities of the doctors who treated her could not be published until late November.

Mr Justice Peel said: “At this point in time, so close to the tragic death of ST, the likelihood is that interest in the circumstances leading to her death will be at its highest, and the risk of improper conduct is similarly at its highest.”

His decision comes after he ruled that Ms Thirumalesh and her family could be identified earlier this month.

The judge expressed his condolences to Ms Thirumalesh’s family, concluding: “As they sat courteously in court, the distress of ST’s mother in particular was palpable.

“The events of the last few months must have been harrowing.

“I sincerely hope that they will find the strength to move forward, comforted by their many happy memories of their much-loved daughter.”

Following the judgment, Ms Thirumalesh’s father Thirumalesh Chellamal Hemachandran said the family was disappointed by the decision.

He said: “We have been unfairly gagged by these reporting restrictions for over six months.

“If not for those restrictions, our daughter might well still be alive.

“We are very disappointed that, even now, the court has decided to continue to gag us for another eight weeks to keep the identity of the hospital and the clinicians secret.

“We cannot even name the people who, in our darkest hour, have made it worse for Sudiksha and the whole family.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said there was “no evidence” of any risk of harassment or violence against the doctors involved in the case.

The Court of Protection in London previously heard the family of Ms Thirumalesh – who could “communicate reasonably well” with her doctors – wanted to travel to North America for a potential clinical trial, described as “experimental”.

But lawyers for the trust said Ms Thirumalesh was “actively dying”, was suffering severe respiratory episodes, and that no hospital overseas had agreed to accept her.

In a statement on Friday, the trust praised the “devotion and dedication” Ms Thirumalesh’s family had shown towards the teenager.

They added: “We offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to Sudiksha’s family and loved ones, at this devastating and difficult time for them.”

The spokesperson described her illness as “incurable and progressive: there was no known treatment that would be effective”, adding it was unclear whether Ms Thirumalesh would have been well enough to make the journey to North America even if a placement and funding had been confirmed.

At the hearing earlier this month, the court heard Ms Thirumalesh’s family may bring an appeal bid over a previous ruling which said the teenager had a “profound inability to contemplate the reality of her prognosis”.

In the ruling in August, Mrs Justice Roberts found the teenager had a “complete inability to accept the medical reality of her position” and was not able to make her own decisions about her medical treatment.