Friday 24 November 2017

Injunction barring interference with terminally ill woman’s care extended

Dublin's High Court
Dublin's High Court

Aodhan O'Faolain

THE High Court has continued an injunction preventing the daughter of a terminally-ill elderly woman from interfering with her medical treatment or moving her to another location.

The woman, who is in her eighties and has a number of medical conditions including severe dementia, is currently undergoing treatment in hospital. Nothing can be published which could identify her.

Her doctors say they believe she will die in the next day or two.

The HSE sought the injunctions because the woman's daughter has "vigorously objected to" and "interfered with" the treatment prescribed by her mother's doctors. On one occasion the Gardai had to be called by staff at the hospital to deal with the daughter, the court heard.

The daughter, who has power of attorney over her mother, wants to move her to another location, the HSE claimed.

The HSE, in opposing any attempt to move the woman says the mother's condition is now so serious she would not survive any attempt to move her.  They want to make her as comfortable as possible in what maybe her final days.

Today at an emergency sitting of the High Court the ill woman's treating consultant said it would be "unethical" to allow her be moved any distance.

The woman's daughter denied interfering with her mother's treatment at the hospital. The daughter, who has been caring for the mother for several years, said she wanted to be able to bring her mother home from the hospital or have her treated at another hospital.  Her lawyer also told the court that an unfair picture of the daughter had been portrayed to the court.

However in his ruling on Saturday Mr Justice Sean Ryan  continued injunctions he made on Friday evening preventing the woman from being moved from her current location. The Judge also continued orders preventing anyone from interfering with the woman's medical treatment.

The Judge said while the case involved "sensitive issues" he was satisfied the ill woman should remain in the hospital, and that she should be continued to be cared for by the medical staff.

He told the daughter, who is medically trained professional, she was free to express any concerns she had about her mother's treatment  with staff at the hospital. However he said the doctors and nurses were the ones who were in charge of her mother's care.

The Judge said he was further prepared to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, who would independently represent the interests of the ill woman. The Judge agreed with a request from the daugher's lawyers that the guardian could then appoint an medical consultant to carry out an independent assessment of the care provided to the mother at the hospital.  

The Judge said he was leaving the order in place until Thursday of next week, when the matter returns before the court.

In her evidence to the court the daughter said her mother's life could be extended if she was put on a course of antibiotics. It was her hope that her mother would be with her for Christmas.

She did accept that there had been "conflicts" with both medical staff treating her mother and social workers. 

 She had cared for her mother for several years, and the court heard there was testimony from other medical professionals who praised the daughter for the level of care she provided to her mother. 

The HSE, represented by Peter Finlay SC, said that putting the ill woman on a course of antibiotics at this stage was "futile." and the HSE has done everything it possibly can for the mother.

 The daughter had asserted a power of attorney over her mother, which she claimed gave her a right to decide what her medical treatment she should receive. The power of attorney did not give the daughter a say in her mothers medical treatment, counsel said.

The ill woman's doctors say it is in her best medical interests that she be provided with palliative care. This consists of her being administered morphine to ease her pain and medication that will help her breathing. The HSE wants to make the woman as comfortable as possible, and provide her with humane care in her final days.

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