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Wife 'grateful' after judge rules life support treatment for policeman can stop

The wife of a soldier-turned-policeman left in a minimally conscious state after a road accident has said she is "grateful" after a judge ruled that doctors could stop providing life support treatment.

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, had told Mr Justice Charles that he should be allowed to die and called for life-sustaining treatment to end.

Doctors had said the judge should be cautious - a specialist said there was "potential" for Mr Briggs to emerge from his minimally conscious state.

Mr Justice Charles ruled in Mrs Briggs's favour on Tuesday after analysing evidence at a hearing in the Court of Protection - where judges consider issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to take decisions - in Manchester a few weeks ago.

He said Mr Briggs should go on to a palliative care regime at a hospice.

Mrs Briggs said the judge had "shown compassion" and understood what her husband would have wanted.

"The court case was the hardest thing we have ever had to do but we did it for Paul, to honour his wishes," said Mrs Briggs.

"We are grateful that Mr Justice Charles has shown compassion towards Paul, has respected his wishes and values and has understood what Paul would have wanted."

She added: "He has been able to place himself in Paul's situation, and for that we will be forever thankful."

Lawyers from law firm Irwin Mitchell had represented Mrs Briggs.

An Irwin Mitchell spokesman said Mr Briggs had not written down what should happen if he found himself in a condition where he was unable to make decisions.

He said a Court of Protection judge had therefore been asked to analyse the case.

"As a result of his motorcycle crash Mr Briggs suffered serious brain and multiple other serious injuries and was rendered unconscious," said the spokesman.

"He is now in a minimally conscious state and does not have the mental capacity to make decisions relating to his care and treatment or to communicate his wishes and feelings to others.

"It is believed he could live for up to nine years with treatment keeping him alive in his current minimally conscious state."

The spokesman added: "Lindsey, along with other family and friends, gave evidence that, given his current condition and long-term prognosis, Mr Briggs would have wanted medical treatment to be withdrawn so that he could pass away with dignity."

He went on: "As Mr Briggs had not made any advance decision in writing about what should happen in these circumstances, the Court of Protection was asked to make a decision after hearing from medical experts as well as his family and a police colleague."

Irwin Mitchell solicitor Mathieu Culverhouse said relatives had wanted to make sure that Mr Briggs' wishes were respected.

"They firmly believe that continuing treatment is not in Paul's best interests given his previously expressed wishes, his injuries and his current condition and prognosis," he said.

"After considering all of the evidence, hearing from medical experts and the clear and powerful evidence from the family, the judge agreed that treatment could lawfully be withdrawn.

"The judge made this decision after taking into account recent guidance from the Supreme Court. He weighed up the competing principles of the very strong presumption in favour of preserving life and the need to respect what Mr Briggs himself would have decided if he was able to do so."

Mr Justice Charles said Mrs Briggs' life had "value".

But he added: "In all the circumstances of this case I have concluded that the weightiest, and so determinative factor, in determining what is in Mr Briggs' best interests is what I am sure he would have wanted to do and would have concluded was in his best interests.

"And so, for him, his best interests are best served by giving effect to what he would have been able to dictate by exercising his right of determination rather than the very powerful counter arguments based on the preservation of his life."

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

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

:: Court of Appeal judges could be asked to review Mr Justice Charles's decision.

Mr Briggs's interests had been represented through lawyers instructed by staff from the Official Solicitor's office - who help vulnerable people involved in litigation.

Barrister Vikram Sachdeva QC, who led the legal team representing Mr Briggs's interests, indicated that he might ask appeal judges to consider the issue.

Mrs Briggs said she was "dismayed" to learn that Mr Justice Charles's decision might be challenged.

She said an appeal would mean "continued uncertainty".

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