Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor
Doctors think that a terminally-ill teenager who has a brain tumour will die within weeks after a judge gave them permission to withhold treatment.
The 18-year-old man’s parents wanted chemotherapy to continue and his mother had launched a “passionate” fight “for his life” at a late-night hearing in the Court of Protection – where issues relating to sick and vulnerable people are analysed – in London
She said her son was “absolutely adored” and a “miracle child” and urged judge Mrs Justice Hogg not to rule that he “has to die”.
The judge described the case as “tragic” but she decided that specialists could lawfully stop providing chemotherapy, end “neuro-surgical intervention” and not resuscitate, after analysing evidence at a hearing which lasted more than eight hours.
She ruled that neither the teenager, who lives in the south of England, nor the hospital trust responsible for his treatment could be identified.
Trust bosses had made an emergency application to the court late on Friday and asked Mrs Justice Hogg to rule that doctors could lawfully stop providing treatment.
A public hearing had started at around 4pm on Friday and ended shortly after midnight.
The teenager’s father had travelled to London with the aim of being at the hearing.
But he returned to his son’s bedside, after leaving instructions with lawyers, when doctors said the teenager had taken turn for the worst.
The teenager’s mother pleaded with the judge from the hospital where he is being cared for – via a telephone link to the court room .
She gave evidence, questioned consultants over the phone and appeared to be choking with emotion on a number of occasions.
Mrs Justice Hogg at one point ordered a break in the hearing to allow the woman to go to the teenager’s bedside
The woman’s husband joined her when he got back to the hospital from London a nd held the receiver when Mrs Justice Hogg announced her decision at around midnight.
The woman had told the judge: “I don’t want to hear you say he has to die. I don’t want to be part of that. I’m afraid I can’t.”
Doctors had said they feared that the teenager had no more than two weeks to live.
A neuro-surgeon told the judge that “active treatment” was “futile”, saying the teenager should be allowed to end his life in as much “dignity and comfort” as possible.
Mrs Justice Hogg heard that the teenager had been diagnosed with a brain tumour by the time he was one, and was registered blind.
But he had been able to go to school, travel and play some sports.
“He has shown particular resilience and courage,” said the judge.
“His mother … has fought every corner for him. And he has fought a few corners for himself.”
Doctors said his condition had deteriorated recently and the cancer had spread.
They said he could not walk or talk and could only lift his limbs with difficulty.
The neuro-surgeon said the teenager was “going in and out of coma”.
All clinicians involved in his care had concluded that further chemotherapy and neurosurgical intervention was futile and not in his best interests, the judge was told.
But the teenager’s parents disagreed, his mother telling the hearing: “I am fighting for my child’s life.
“He is a sick child but he is coping. (He) is not dying.”
She questioned the neurosurgeon and a cancer specialist who gave evidence at the hearing.
“Give him a chance. Maybe chemo will work. If (he) goes he goes. But he may not. He may have months to live,” she said.
“(He) may not be able to do martial arts but he talks, he walks. He is a pleasure to be with.”
The woman said he son had a “normal life” for a child who had a brain tumour.
“It’s just seems you want him to die. The sooner the better,” she told one doctor at the hearing.
“It makes me worry you are not acting in his best interests. You just want it to get over and done with.”
She added: “We may be lucky and he will live a few months or a miracle will happen. You just have to believe he will pull through.”
The woman said he son still got a “lot of enjoyment” from his family and told the judge that they “absolutely adored” him.
“He is a miracle child and has survived things you thought he would not,” she said.
“He deserves a chance.”
She added: “Doctors should treat the patient to the very end. That is how I see it.
“He deserves the right to be treated. He is still your patient.”
The neurosurgeon told the woman of his sorrow, saying: “I am so sorry for what you are going through. It is such a terrible time.”
He added: “I am finding this very difficult … I don’t like to see children die.”
Barrister John McKendrick, for the teenager’s father, said his client also wanted chemotherapy to continue.
Mrs Justice Hogg said she understood how difficult the situation was for the teenager’s parents.
“The parents want everything to be done to keep (him) alive,” she said.
“The mother is clearly very passionate. The father follows suit.”
But she said she had to base her decision on the evidence and decide what was in the teenager’s best interests, a nd made no criticism of doctors or medical staff.
“The evidence shows that (he) is in the last phase of his life,” she said.
“The doctors … say the time has now come for palliative treatment only.”
She added: “I am satisfied that chemotherapy should not be resumed.”
And she said there should be no resuscitation and no neuro-surgical treatment.
She said the teenager should get as much palliative treatment and care as could be offered.
The judge had concluded that the teenager lacked the mental capacity to make decisions about treatment, or to litigate.
He had been represented at the hearing by court-appointed lawyers and a barrister had questioned doctors on his behalf.
Mrs Justice Hogg said she had asked herself what the teenager would want, adding that it was a difficult question because there was no “real evidence” from him.
Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor