Withdrawal of treatment: Best interests

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service v JT [2014] QSC 251 saw a parens patriae application by a hospital for a declaration that cessation of certain medical treatment would be in the best interests of the respondent JT.

JT had suffered a severe hypoxic injury some 2 years earlier. He had remained unconscious since then and required tube feeding and other medical maintenance. JT’s wife indicated that well before these events, JT had indicated that he would not wish to be sustained in such a fashion. The medical evidence was mostly of a persistent vegetative state, though one practitioner had earlier suggested a minimally conscious state. The court concluded that, in the circumstances, in reality there was no difference for JT. All medical practitioners agreed that there was no prospect of recovery

The court inferred that JT would not wish continuing invasive care and therefore that it was no longer in his best interests for the care to continue. A declaration was made that cessation of such care would be lawful.

The court also made a declaration that the continuation of care would not be consistent with good medical practice, though had earlier noted that was not itself the determinative question.

With thanks to Kate Gillman, for drawing this decision to my attention.