The Court of Appeal have upheld a ruling made by the Court of Protection refusing to allow journalists to identify a protected party at the centre of proceedings.
The case concerned RW, a 77 year old man with a diagnosis of end stage dementia. RW is fully dependent on others for all of his care and there is no treatment that can be provided other than palliative care to relieve the effect of his symptoms. RW had been in hospital, and upon being assessed as ready for discharge home, a disagreement developed between his adult sons and his doctors about the arrangements for discharge. His sons asserted that RW should be discharged home with a feeding tube in place, arguing that that is what he would want in order to live for as long as possible. The doctors did not consider that this treatment would be appropriate for an individual in RW’s condition, arguing that he should be allowed to “die with dignity”.
The relevant NHS Trust applied to the Court of Protection for approval of its plan to discharge RW without a feeding tube. The application was granted, and RW’s son applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to bring an appeal against this decision. The court unanimously concluded that a full appeal would not have a real prospect of success and that permission to appeal should accordingly be refused.
Significantly, the Court of Appeal addressed the issue of whether the full names of RW and his family could be reported in the media. The majority of cases heard within the Court of Protection are subject to a transparency order, which prevents the publication of any information identifying the individuals at the centre of the proceedings on the grounds that publicity would unfairly infringe on the human right to respect for private and family life.
RW’s sons argued that RW would want to be named, so that the nature of his condition could attract the widest possible publicity and stimulate proper debate about issues surrounding the care of end stage dementia sufferers. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument, determining that RW is a vulnerable adult and that his dignity and privacy should be protected at the end of his life. The court therefore concluded that the general public interest in the treatment of people receiving end-of-life care could be aired without the need to name RW, and that the transparency order should be maintained.
Lord Justice Jackson stated that “individuals and families coming before the Court of Protection in often extreme circumstances should not have the further worry that they are likely to be identified to the public at large”.
The case highlights the important role that the Court of Protection plays in ensuring that the human rights of vulnerable individuals are protected. Stephensons have a specialist team of Court of Protection solicitors covering cases nationwide and have the benefit of a legal aid contract (subject to eligibility). Should you require any assistance or advice on any matter which may relate to the Court of Protection or community care, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01616 966 229.
By Kerrie Taylor, graduate paralegal in the Court of Protection and Community Care department