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Doctors defend handling of case


The case was heard at the Court of Protection

The case was heard at the Court of Protection

The case was heard at the Court of Protection

Doctors have defended their handling of a case involving a terminally-ill teenager who has died after finding himself at the centre of a right-to-life legal dispute.

Alexander Elliott, who was 18 and had a brain tumour, died on Thursday, more than four months after a judge gave doctors working for the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust permission to withhold treatment.

His father, Brian Elliott, of Guildford, Surrey, has told of the family's "battle". He said clinicians had either misinterpreted or refused to engage and said the "incredible strain" the teenager's mother, Olya, had been under was "only acknowledged by a few".

The teenager's father also said a consultant had decided staff would not discuss resuscitation plans with him and Mrs Elliott

He said he wanted lessons to be learned.

But trust bosses say the teenager's welfare was their "only concern" and said staff were "acutely aware of the strain on his parents".

The case hit the headlines in February after Mrs Justice Hogg analysed evidence 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 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.

Mrs Justice Hogg said treatment could be withheld.

Judges have been told at subsequent hearings in recent weeks that the teenager had remained alive and ''surpassed all expectations''.

Following Mr Elliott's death, his father released witness statements made during the litigation in which he described the "battle".

A trust spokesman said: "Alex's welfare remained our only concern and we are saddened at the suggestion that it had fallen by the wayside because this was never the case.

"Alex's condition deteriorated steadily over the past four months, during which time staff within our palliative care, neurosurgical, oncological and many other services worked tirelessly to provide the best possible care for him and support for his family.

"We remained acutely aware of the strain on his parents throughout this time."

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 took 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.