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Alexander Elliott: Terminally ill teen at centre of right-to-life dispute dies

Published 18/06/2015

Mrs Justice Hogg analysed the case at a hearing in the Court of Protection
Mrs Justice Hogg analysed the case at a hearing in the Court of Protection

The father of a terminally-ill 18-year-old man who has died after being at the centre of a right-to-life legal dispute has described the teenager as "the very definition of brave".

Brian Elliott tonight praised his late son Alexander, who had a brain tumour, as a "courageous fighter" who had died "in his own time" not at the "behest" of hospital bosses.

And he said he hoped lessons would be learned and other families would not face the "same agony".

The case hit the headlines in February when a judge gave specialists working for the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust permission to withhold treatment from Mr Elliott.

Mrs Justice Hogg analysed the case at a hearing in the Court of Protection - where issues relating to sick and vulnerable people are considered - in London.

Doctors said they feared that Mr Elliott had no more than two weeks to live and a neurosurgeon said active treatment was ''futile''.

But the teenager's parents - Brian and Olya Elliott - disagreed. They asked Mrs Justice Hogg to allow chemotherapy to continue.

Mrs Elliott launched what Mrs Justice Hogg described as a ''passionate'' fight at a late-night hearing which lasted more than eight hours.

And judges have been told at subsequent hearings in recent weeks that Mr Elliott had remained alive and "surpassed all expectations''.

A solicitor representing the Elliott family - Laura Hobey-Hamsher, who works for law firm Bindmans - said Mr Elliott died early this morning.

Mr Elliott's father paid tribute to his son. "My son was a courageous fighter, and the very definition of brave." he said.

"He went in his own time, with his dignity and autonomy intact, and not at the behest of the hospital trust who, since February, have repeatedly told the court that it was in his best interests for further life-preserving treatment to be stopped, and for him to be left to die.

"Had the trust succeeded in their application in February, we would have been denied his company over these last few months, and he would have been denied the last four precious months of his life."

He added: "Alex faced all of the challenges he encountered throughout his life head-on. He believed in standing up for doing what he thought was right. It is of some small consolation to us that he was allowed to continue to fight this fight to the end."

Ms Hobey-Hamsher added: "Alex's staunchest allies were his parents. Alex was certainly a fighter, but so were they. Their life-long and passionate commitment to fighting for their son knew no bounds.

"The sadness in this case is that they had to spend the final months of his life fighting just for the treatment necessary to keep him alive. His father hopes that lessons will be learned, and that other families will not face the same agony".

A spokesman for University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said: ""We first treated Alex at the age of one and he has been cared for over the years by a number of hospitals, having surgery and treatment in Birmingham, London and Liverpool as well as Southampton.

"After discussing the changes in his condition with our colleagues in Liverpool and Manchester in February, we talked with his parents about the most appropriate care and treatment for him at that stage of his life.

"In addition, guidance was also sought from the court of protection to clarify independently what was in his best interests.

"Although very upsetting for his family, Alex had reached a point where all medical and surgical treatment options had been exhausted and, due to his deteriorating condition, any further intervention would have been futile and risked causing him great distress. Two separate court hearings confirmed that this was, very sadly, the right thing for Alex.

"We will continue to support Alex's parents and family in any way we can and will openly discuss any aspects of the treatment or care provided with them."

Mrs Justice Hogg had made an order barring reporters from revealing the identities of anyone involved while Mr Elliott was alive.

Last year the same trust was involved in a separate dispute with the family of a sick five-year-old boy.

The parents of Ashya King hit the headlines after taking the youngster from a hospital without doctors' permission.

In September, a High Court judge gave Brett and Naghmeh King permission to take Ashya - who also had a brain tumour - to a clinic in Prague to receive treatment not available in England.

Mr Justice Baker, who analysed the case at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London, approved a treatment plan following discussions between lawyers representing Mr and Mrs King and the trust.

Trust bosses defended doctors handing of the case.

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