Judge rules patient is clinically dead after hospital dispute

The Trust runs Hinchingbrooke, Peterborough City and Stamford & Rutland hospitals.

The Trust runs Hinchingbrooke, Peterborough City and Stamford & Rutland hospitals. - Credit: NWAFT

A judge has ruled that a woman who suffered a brain haemorrhage is "dead" after doctors and relatives became embroiled in a treatment dispute.

Doctors said the woman, who is in her 40s, died on March 10 and was receiving “futile” life-support treatment.

But a family member said their “rush to switch everything off” was “awful”.

The patient had been receiving treatment under the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Hinchingbrooke, Peterborough City and Stamford & Rutland hospitals.

On March 16, Sir Jonathan Cohen, made a declaration that the woman was dead after lawyers representing the hospital responsible for her care asked for a ruling at the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He considered evidence from specialists and a member of the woman’s family.

The judge, who is based in London, ruled the woman cannot be identified in media reports of the case.

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He heard that she had been in the care of the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust. 

Barrister Emma Sutton, who led the trust’s legal team, told how the woman had gone to a hospital emergency department in early March complaining of “severe migraine-type headaches”.

Miss Sutton said a scan revealed an “aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage”.

“It was determined that there were no neurosurgical options available and that clinical treatment was futile,” she said, in a written case outline.

“Brain stem death testing undertaken on March 10, 2022 confirmed cessation of brain stem function.”

She said: “The clinical decision that (she) had died was reached following brain stem death testing at 11.45 on March 10.”

Miss Sutton said specialists at other hospitals also concluded that the woman was dead.

Miss Sutton said the woman’s family had “indicated their disagreement with the cessation of treatment”.

One family member told the judge: “This rush to switch everything off is awful.”

She said she was “not really trusting” what doctors were saying.

Due to the difference of view between the treating clinicians and family members in circumstances where assisted ventilation is continuing, the Trust asked that the issue be determined by the High Court.