The matter of An NHS Trust v W & X  [2015] EWHC 2778 (Fam) provides a relatively unusual consideration of an application by a hospital for a Declaration that it would not be unlawful to withdraw medical support devices which are effectively keeping X alive. The Declaration was opposed by the parents.

Having considered the evidence, the court made the declaration, saying at [26]:

…. I have to examine the situation and the options and the balance of benefits and burdens as dispassionately as I can. I accept the expert evidence, and the oral evidence given by Dr A that there is no hope of any intervention which can now save X’s life. I accept that sadly he is dying. I do not find that staff at the First Hospital have exaggerated X’s condition. Where there are differences in the evidence as between them and the father, it may be that there are changes in X’s external condition from time to time which give one observer a rather different impression from another. Or it may be that the father views the state of his much-loved son through the eyes of a father who fervently wishes to see improvements, when there are none, or none which are really significant. Sadly, I do not consider that the father’s hopes for his son are realistic given the unanimous medical evidence which I have considered in detail. It seems clear to me that if death is inevitable, it would be better for X (and, so far as I can determine, what X would want) that his end should come in an orderly way with his family around him through the withdrawal of life support; rather than unpredictably as to time and manner and as part of a painful and slow decline, with his essential organs kept going only by artificial means. ……There are disadvantages of delay which are not counter-balanced by any realistic prospect of anything changing: or to repeat the above citation from Dr C’s statement: “There is no chance of success and, whilst there are risks of further treatment, there are no benefits“. Accordingly, and with a heavy heart, I consider that the NHS Trust has established its case. Notwithstanding the strong starting point of preserving life, I have to recognise that it is not always in the best interests of the child. I shall therefore grant the Declaration sought.

Similar issues arose in a more recent matter Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust v A and others [2015] EWHC 2828 (Fam), concerning the withdrawal of life support for two young children.

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