Thursday 21 September 2017

'A great deal to think about': High Court to decide on whether to resuscitate man with brain injuries

The High Court, Dublin
The High Court, Dublin

Tim Healy

THE president of the High Court visited a severely brain injured young man in hospital before reserving his decision on an application to allow doctors not to resuscitate him or increase his ventilator support if his condition deteriorates.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said he would deliver judgment as soon as he can.

As there were "very profound questions" to address and a "great deal to read and think about", this was not a matter to be rushed, he said.

Addressing the man's parents, who oppose the HSE's non-resuscitation application and who maintain he has a significant level of awareness, the judge said they certainly fit into the category of "devoted and responsible parents".

He thanked them for attending court, co-operating with his visit to their son and for their care for their son over the years.

He also expressed thanks to the hospital authorities for facilitating his recent visit.

The parents are separately suing the HSE on the man's behalf arising form his care and treatment after he was admitted to hospital with an acute lung condition.

The court has heard there is no unifying diagnosis for the man’s injuries. He suffered a significant brain injury some months after his admission to hospital where he remains in a high dependency unit.

The HSE application is not about withdrawing existing ventilation or other treatments but giving doctors discretion, if the man suffers a setback, not to apply CPR or increase ventilator support if they consider such treatment is not beneficial.  

Doctors consider his condition has deteriorated over the past two years and will not improve but his parents disagree on that and other issues including his ability to communicate.

Because the man, aged in his thirties, has been made a ward of court, Mr Justice Kelly must decide whether or not the orders are in his best interests. He heard final legal submissions in the case this week after which he reserved judgment.

In evidence previously, the man's father told the judge: "I want him to be kept alive. Where there’s life, there’s hope."

Asked did he believe his son gets enjoyment from life, he said he did. "I can see emotion, I can see happiness from time to time."

"When the time comes for him to leave this world, it should come naturally and with the full support a civil and caring society can offer."  

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