Relatives of ‘most complicated’ Covid patient await life or death appeal ruling

·3-min read

Relatives of a grandmother in her 50s left brain-damaged and paralysed from the neck down after contracting Covid-19 are waiting for an appeal ruling after a judge concluded that she should be allowed to die.

A lawyer representing relatives told appeal judges on Tuesday that Mr Justice Hayden’s ruling did not “reflect” evidence from “those closest” to the woman, who doctors say was the most complicated Covid patient in the world.

Edward Devereux QC said Mr Justice Hayden had ignored evidence from the woman’s adult children.

Mr Justice Hayden considered evidence in a recent trial at the Court of Protection in London, where judges oversee hearings centred on adults who lack the mental capacity to make decisions, and concluded that life-support treatment should stop by the end of October.

Relatives asked three appeal judges to overturn Mr Justice Hayden’s decision at a Court of Appeal hearing in London.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, the most senior Court of Protection judge in England and Wales, Lord Justice Moylan and Sir Nicholas Patten said they would announce their decision in the near future.

Judges have ruled that the woman, who doctors say is in a minimally conscious state, cannot be identified in media reports of the case.

Specialists treating her at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge said life-support treatment should end.

The woman’s relatives disagreed and said she should be given more time.

They say she can “feel and show degrees of emotion” and enjoys watching TV.

Mr Devereux told appeal judges that Mr Justice Hayden had erred.

Covid patient hearing
Sir Andrew McFarlane (Courts and Tribunals Judiciary/PA)

He said the evidence from her adult children was that she would have wanted to carry on living despite her circumstances.

“(Mr Justice Hayden) ignored completely the evidence of the children, in written and oral form, about what their mother would like,” Mr Devereux told the appeal hearing.

“The judge had cumulative, compelling evidence from those closest to (her) about what she would have wanted in her life.

“This is not reflected in the judgment.”

Mr Devereux said the woman could feel and show degrees of emotion and could communicate.

He said she could pull a face when she found something funny and liked being tickled.

Mr Devereux said she enjoyed watching EastEnders on her computer, watched Netflix and liked Mr Bean.

Covid Patient Hearing
Addenbrooke’s Hospital (Andrew Parsons/PA)

Lawyers say life-support treatment will continue until the three appeal judges have made a decision.

Doctors told Mr Justice Hayden, based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, that the woman had been the “most complicated” Covid-19 patient in the world.

Specialists at Addenbrooke’s said there was nothing they could do to make “any aspect of her condition better” and that life-support treatment was causing her distress and adding to her burden.

They thought her life expectancy could be measured in months and said moving her to a palliative care regime would enable her to die peacefully and without distress.

Mr Justice Hayden said it was the first time a judge had considered an end-of-life case as a result of Covid-19.

He heard how the woman, who was overweight and had underlying health problems, went into hospital with symptoms of Covid-19 late in 2020.

Katie Gollop QC, who represents hospital bosses, told Mr Justice Hayden the woman’s case appeared to be unique.

She said the woman was “almost entirely paralysed” and had “severe” cognitive impairment.

One specialist said the woman had complications not described in the UK before.

Ms Gollop told appeal judges that the relatives’ challenge should be dismissed. “… this is a thoughtful, detailed, nuanced judgment,” she said in a written argument.

“No relevant factor was left out of account or given insufficient consideration or weight.

“There is no real prospect of a challenge to the (Mr Justice Hayden’s) careful exercise of his best interests discretion succeeding.”

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