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Judge rules man's life can end

A High Court judge has ruled that the life of a 67-year-old man who has motor neurone disease can "peacefully end" after concluding that he had made a "valid" decision to refuse treatment.

Mrs Justice Theis was told at a hearing in London how a carer raised concerns about whether the man, who communicates through eye movement, had agreed to an "advance decision" not to have life-prolonging treatment.

But after hearing evidence from medics, carers and the man's wife, the judge said she was "entirely satisfied" that the man had possessed the capacity to make the "advance decision" when documentation was drawn up in November 2011.

Lawyers said the case was the first of its kind to come before the High Court. They said the man's family would now decide when treatment should be withdrawn.

Mrs Justice Theis told the man's relatives, following a two-day hearing in the Court of Protection, which is part of the High Court: "I hope the next stage proceeds as well as can be expected."

The judge stressed the need for clarity when advance decision documents are drawn up and said health authorities should investigate any issues about the validity of advance decisions as a "matter of urgency".

Mr Justice Theis heard how the man's wife had found a template for an advance decision - a declaration which used to be called a living will - on the internet. The man had used eye movements to communicate his consent in front of witnesses, including his wife, a doctor, a social worker and a carer.

Another carer had raised concerns about whether the man - referred to in court as XB - had "communicated his agreement". But the judge said lawyers had established that the carer who raised concerns had not been present when the document was agreed.

Mrs Justice Theis was told that the man had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 57.

She said the question of "what life-sustaining treatment he would receive" had been discussed with him a number of times in 2010 and in 2011 he had indicated that he wished such treatment to be withdrawn. The man's wife told the judge he "wanted to be allowed to peacefully end his life".

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