Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News UK

Wife asks judge to let her turn off crash victim husband's life support

Published 01/11/2016

Paul Briggs, 43, suffered a severe brain injury in a motorcycle crash while serving with Merseyside Police in July 2015 (family handout/PA Wire)
Paul Briggs, 43, suffered a severe brain injury in a motorcycle crash while serving with Merseyside Police in July 2015 (family handout/PA Wire)

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 2015.

His wife, Lindsey, says life-sustaining treatment should stop but doctors disagree.

Mr Justice Charles is expected to make a ruling after a hearing in the Court of Protection - where judges consider issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to take decisions - in the near future.

He analysed preliminary issues at a hearing in London on Tuesday.

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

But Mr Briggs' accident has been widely reported, no-one involved in the litigation has asked for him to be anonymised and Mr Justice Charles says he can be named.

The judge has been told that doctors treating Mr Briggs have diagnosed him as being in a minimally conscious state.

A barrister representing Mrs Briggs has outlined the background to the case in a written statement given to the judge.

Victoria Butler-Cole said Mr Briggs was being cared for by staff at The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust - which is based in Liverpool.

"Doctors treating Mr Briggs and an independent doctor have diagnosed him as being in a minimally conscious state," she said. "A different independent doctor... has diagnosed Mr Briggs as being in a permanent vegetative state."

She added: "Mrs Briggs is certain that Mr Briggs would not wish to continue to receive life-sustaining treatment.

"The treating doctors are of the view that it is in his best interests to receive a further period of rehabilitation and ongoing assessment to see whether any improvement in his condition might take place."

Mr Briggs had not made any advance decision in writing about what should happen in such circumstances, she told the judge.

Mrs Briggs had been distressed to learn that without a "written advance decision" she could not prevent her husband from receiving medical treatment to which she believed he would not have consented, the barrister added.

Solicitor Mathieu Culverhouse, who is also representing Mrs Briggs, said after Tuesday's hearing: "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."

Mr Culverhouse, who works for law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "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 for treatment to be withdrawn, which the court is set to decide on in late November."

Specialists at the Walton Centre think there is potential for improvement in Mr Briggs' condition.

"The trust's position is that Mr Briggs now requires transfer to a specialist rehabilitation placement," barrister Conrad Hallin, who represents The Walton Centre, told Mr Justice Charles in a written statement.

"The trust also consider that Mr Briggs would benefit from a more socially stimulating environment."

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

Chelsea Rowe had been driving a Nissan Micra which was in a head-on collision with Mr Briggs' 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 had been in Pc Briggs' lane when the accident happened.

Mrs Briggs had made a victim impact statement during the criminal proceedings.

"No words can begin to describe the immense pain," she had said.

"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 had 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, who have a daughter, had married in 2000.

Mrs Briggs was not at Tuesday's Court of Protection hearing before Mr Justice Charles.

Press Association

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph