Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News UK

Judge to examine woman's request for her stricken husband to 'die with dignity'

Published 27/11/2016

Paul Briggs is a veteran of the Gulf War
Paul Briggs is a veteran of the Gulf War

A judge has been asked to decide whether doctors should stop providing life-support treatment to a soldier-turned-policeman who was left in a coma after a road accident.

Gulf War veteran Paul Briggs, 43, suffered a severe brain injury in a motorcycle crash while serving with Merseyside Police in July last year.

His wife Lindsey says life-sustaining treatment should stop so that he can die with "dignity" - doctors disagree.

Mr Justice Charles is due to analyse the case in a public trial at the Court of Protection, where judges oversee cases relating to people who lack the mental capacity to take decisions, in Manchester on Monday.

The judge has been told that Mr Briggs is being cared for at Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool.

Doctors treating Mr Briggs - and an independent specialist - say he is in a minimally conscious state.

Another independent doctor has diagnosed Mr Briggs as being in a permanent vegetative state.

Mrs Briggs, a 40-year-old personal assistant, is being represented by law firm Irwin Mitchell.

An Irwin Mitchell spokesman said Mr Briggs had not made any advance decision in writing about what should happen in such circumstances.

But the spokesman said Mr Briggs' relatives did not think that he would have wanted to carry on being treated.

"He has been in a minimally conscious state in hospital for 17 months," said the spokesman.

"Mr Briggs is a veteran of the Gulf War and has been a dedicated policeman who lived an active life.

"His family strongly believe he would not have wanted to carry on being provided medical treatment in his current condition."

Lawyers say that following the accident Mr Briggs was treated for a bleed on the brain, five fractures in his spine, bruising to internal organs and several other severe injuries.

They say he is unable to speak, make any informed decisions or and has no independent control of his body - but could live for the best part of a decade if kept alive with treatment.

The spokesman said: "Lindsey ... along with other family and friends, say that given his current condition and long term prognosis Paul would have wanted medical treatment to be withdrawn so that he could pass away with dignity."

He added: "As Paul had not made any advance decision in writing about what should happen in these circumstances the Court of Protection is being asked to make a decision after hearing from several medical experts as well as his family."

Mathieu Culverhouse, a specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, went on: "The time since Paul's accident has been extremely difficult for Lindsey and Paul's family and Lindsey just wants what is best for him. She firmly believes that the withdrawal of treatment is in Paul's best interests given his previously expressed wishes, his injuries and his current condition and prognosis.

"We will continue to support Lindsey through the legal process as she continues to fight for Paul's wishes and feelings to be respected and we will be asking the Court of Protection this week for treatment to be withdrawn based on all the available evidence Lindsey has received."

Normally, patients at the centre of Court of Protection litigation are not identified because judges aim to protect their privacy.

But Mr Briggs's accident was widely reported and no-one involved in the litigation has asked for him to be anonymised.

Mr Justice Charles has said hearings will be staged in public and Mr Briggs can be named.

The trial is expected to last four days.

A 26-year-old woman was given a 12-month prison term in July after admitting causing serious injury to Mr Briggs by dangerous driving.

Chelsea Rowe was driving a Nissan Micra which was in a head-on collision with Mr Briggs's motorcycle, a judge at Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Pc Briggs had been riding on the Birkenhead flyover on July 3 2015, ahead of a night shift.

Investigators found that Rowe's car was in Pc Briggs's lane when the accident happened.

Mrs Briggs made a victim impact statement during the criminal proceedings, saying: ''No words can begin to describe the immense pain.

''While Paul remains in a horrific state, it is beyond devastating and affects every aspect of all our lives for the worse.

''We have had to endure seeing him like this every day, for many long, difficult months now.''

Mrs Briggs added: ''It is much worse than if he had died at the scene; being unable to grieve as he is still alive, yet with each day becoming less optimistic of his recovery.''

She said she and Mr Briggs married in 2000 and have a daughter, Ella, who is now five.

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph