Please tell doc­tors to let my hus­band die, mother begs judge

But medics say coma vic­tim’s con­di­tion could im­prove

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Steve Doughty So­cial Af­fairs Correspondent

THE wife of a po­lice­man who was left in a coma after a mo­tor­cy­cle crash wants doc­tors to stop pro­vid­ing life-sup­port­ing treat­ment, a court heard yes­ter­day.

Lawyers for Lind­sey Briggs said her hus­band Paul, who re­lies on nu­tri­tion and flu­ids pro­vided through tubes, would not want to stay alive.

But doc­tors said that Mr Briggs is ‘min­i­mally con­scious’ and should con­tinue to be treated in the hope that his con­di­tion will im­prove.

The case of the 43-year-old for­mer sol­dier, heard by a judge in the Court of Pro­tec­tion, is highly un­usual in that typ­i­cally such le­gal ar­gu­ments in­volve doc­tors try­ing to per­suade the fam­i­lies of ter­ri­bly ill or in­jured peo­ple that the prospects of their loved ones are hope­less.

Mr Jus­tice Charles or­dered that the usual se­crecy of the Court of Pro­tec­tion should be lifted be­cause Mr Briggs’s accident has been widely re­ported. His wife has given in­ter­views about her wish for him to be al­lowed to die. Judges at the court con­sider is­sues con­cern­ing peo­ple lack­ing mental ca­pac­ity to take de­ci­sions.

Mr Briggs, a Royal Ar­tillery vet­eran who served in North­ern Ire­land and in the first Gulf War and later be­came a po­lice con­sta­ble on Mersey­side, was in­jured in a mo­tor­cy­cle crash on his way to work last year.

He suf­fered cat­a­strophic brain in­juries that have left him on life sup­port for al­most 16 months.

In July, Chelsea Rowe, 26, was jailed for 12 months for caus­ing se­ri­ous in­jury by dan­ger­ous driv­ing. A judge found she mis-

‘The man I fell in love with has gone’

tak­enly be­lieved she was on a one-way road when she hit Mr Briggs on a fly­over in Birken­head.

Mr Briggs and his 39-year-old wife have been mar­ried for 16 years and have a fiveyear-old daugh­ter, Ella.

Victoria But­ler-Cole, a bar­ris­ter rep­re­sent­ing Mrs Briggs, told the court: ‘Doc­tors treat­ing Mr Briggs and an in­de­pen­dent doc­tor have di­ag­nosed him as be­ing in a min­i­mally con­scious state. A dif­fer­ent in­de­pen­dent doc­tor has di­ag­nosed Mr Briggs as be­ing in a per­ma­nent veg­e­ta­tive state.

‘Mrs Briggs is cer­tain that Mr Briggs would not wish to con­tinue to re­ceive life­sus­tain­ing treat­ment.

‘The treat­ing doc­tors are of the view that it is in his best in­ter­ests to re­ceive a fur­ther pe­riod of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and on­go­ing as­sess­ment to see whether any im­prove­ment in his con­di­tion might take place.’

Mr Briggs, who is be­ing treated in the Wal­ton Cen­tre in Liver­pool, had not made a liv­ing will – also known as an ad­vance di­rec­tive – spec­i­fy­ing that he would not wish to con­tinue with life-sus­tain­ing treat­ment if he be­came in­ca­pac­i­tated, the hear­ing in London was told.

Mrs Briggs’s bar­ris­ter said she had been dis­tressed to learn that with­out the doc­u­ment she could not or­der her hus­band’s treat­ment – in­clud­ing the nu­tri­tion and hy­dra­tion tubes – to be with­drawn.

Her so­lic­i­tor, Mathieu Cul­ver­house, said after the hear­ing: ‘The time since Paul’s accident has been ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for Lind­sey and Paul’s fam­ily and Lind­sey just wants what is best for him.

‘She firmly be­lieves that the with­drawal of treat­ment is in Paul’s best in­ter­ests given his pre­vi­ously ex­pressed wishes, his in­juries and his cur­rent con­di­tion and prog­no­sis. We will con­tinue to sup­port Lind­sey through the le­gal process as she con­tin­ues to fight for Paul’s wishes and feel­ings to be re­spected and for treat­ment to be with­drawn, which the court is set to de­cide on in late Novem­ber.’

Doc­tors at the Wal­ton Cen­tre be­lieve that Mr Briggs’s con­di­tion may im­prove.

Con­rad Hallin, bar­ris­ter for the NHS Trust that runs the cen­tre, told the court: ‘The Trust’s po­si­tion is that Mr Briggs now re­quires trans­fer to a spe­cial­ist re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion place­ment.

‘The Trust also con­sid­ers that Mr Briggs would ben­e­fit from a more so­cially stim­u­lat­ing en­vi­ron­ment.’

In an in­ter­view ear­lier this year, Mrs Briggs, who met her hus­band in 1995 when he was work­ing as a fire­man, said: ‘As a war vet­eran, he sur­vived six years serv­ing on the front line in the Gulf War and North­ern Ire­land be­fore go­ing into the po­lice force for an­other 11. The man I fell in love with has gone, al­though his body re­mains here, laid up in a hos­pi­tal bed.

‘He is un­recog­nis­able and would never have wanted to be kept alive this way.’

Mrs Briggs urged other cou­ples to write ad­vance di­rec­tives, say­ing: ‘It never crossed our minds to put in writ­ing that we’d want to do in a “worst-case sce­nario” should we ever end up in a sim­i­lar state.’ In a state­ment to Liver­pool Crown Court dur­ing Rowe’s trial, Mrs Briggs said: ‘While Paul re­mains in a hor­rific state, it is beyond dev­as­tat­ing and af­fects ev­ery as­pect of all our lives for the worse.

‘It is much worse than if he had died at the scene; be­ing un­able to grieve as he is still alive, yet with each day be­com­ing less op­ti­mistic of his re­cov­ery.’

Ad­vance di­rec­tives were given le­gal force by Labour’s 2005 Mental Ca­pac­ity Act.

How­ever, se­nior judges have re­cently ruled that, de­spite the Act, ad­vance di­rec­tives should not be obeyed by doc­tors and that all cases in which with­drawal of treat­ment will re­sult in death should be de­cided by a court.

Last month in a key speech, High Court judge Mr Jus­tice Baker said that there is un­cer­tainty about whether some­one in a coma can re­cover.

‘Med­i­cal sci­ence and the law are still evolv­ing,’ he said. ‘Un­til such time as we have greater clar­ity and un­der­stand­ing about the disor­ders of con­scious­ness, and about the le­gal and eth­i­cal prin­ci­ples to be ap­plied, there re­mains a need for in­de­pen­dent over­sight.’

Mar­ried for 16 years: Lind­sey and Paul Briggs with their daugh­ter Ella, now aged five Left in a coma: Mr Briggs was in­jured in a mo­tor­cy­cle crash

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