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Judge bides time on ill drummer

A High Court judge asked to decide whether doctors can allow a terminally-ill musician to die today said it was clear that the man would find his situation "intolerable".

Mr Justice Hayden said the man's ex-wife and friends had "brought his character and personality" into the courtroom - telling how he would regard his situation as a "living hell" and should be allowed to "find peace".

But the judge said he wanted further analysis of the man's condition before making a decision about whether nutrition and hydration should be withdrawn.

Mr Justice Hayden heard evidence at a hearing in the Court of Protection in London earlier this month and today outlined his thoughts on the case.

And he indicated that he would be unlikely to make a decision until later in the summer.

Lawyers representing a hospitals trust say the man, a drummer in his 50s who had played in bands, has a condition which affects the nerves of the brain stem and will not recover.

They have told Mr Justice Hayden that the man has lost the ability to swallow, is immobile and cannot communicate.

Doctors had asked for permission not to resuscitate the man if he suffered a cardiac arrest and not to administer antibiotics if he developed a serious infection.

Mr Justice Hayden had then asked lawyers to consider whether nutrition and hydration should be withdrawn.

The judge has ruled that the man cannot be identified.

But he says the hospitals trust with responsibility for the man's care - the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - can be named.

The Court of Protection is part of the High Court and judges analyse cases involving sick and vulnerable people.

Mr Justice Hayden said the man's ex-wife had told the court: "I believe with all my body and soul that (he) would find the situation he was in a living hell, and if we cared anything for him, we would let him go and find peace."

He said evidence from the man's ex-wife and friends had "transported" from his hospital bed.

"It is clear that this situation is one he would have found intolerable - an affront to his dignity," said Mr Justice Hayden

"I have no doubt he would wish to leave the hospital and go the home of his ex-wife's ... and end his days quietly there and with dignity as he sees it."

He said: " What I find to be striking from this evidence is its complete lack of any tendency towards the judgmental. These are individuals who do not necessarily share (his) views. One or two plainly do not. All, however, are clear that this is a situation that he would find unendurable and an affront to his dignity."

But the judge said he wanted the "best evidence available" before deciding whether withdrawing hydration and nutrition was in the man's best interests.

And he said a specialist assessment of his condition would provide the "best possible picture" and said the correct course was to adjourn so that " a structured clinical assessment" could be carried out evidence of awareness, responsiveness and capacity to experience pain evaluated.

"The real issue in the case is whether it is in (his) best interest to receive nutrition and hydration or whether he should quite simply be permitted to bring his life to an end in the manner and time-scales of his choice," he added.

" Whether withdrawal of hydration and nutrition will, in the long term, be in (his) best interest remains yet to be seen."


From Belfast Telegraph