Wednesday 24 January 2018

Terminally-ill teenager who has brain tumour and was given weeks to live by doctors has 'surpassed all expectations' - lawyers

The 18-year-old man remains alive nearly three months after a judge gave specialists permission to withhold treatment.
The 18-year-old man remains alive nearly three months after a judge gave specialists permission to withhold treatment.

A terminally-ill teenager who has a brain tumour and was given weeks to live by doctors has "surpassed all expectations", lawyers say.

The 18-year-old man remains alive nearly three months after a judge gave specialists permission to withhold treatment, a judge heard today, and his case is set to be re-analysed.

The man's future care had been debated at a hearing in the Court of Protection - where issues relating to sick and vulnerable people are considered - in London on February 13.

Doctors had said they feared that the teenager had no more than two weeks to live and a neuro-surgeon said ''active treatment'' was ''futile''.

The man's parents had disagreed.

They wanted chemotherapy to continue and his mother had launched a ''passionate'' fight ''for his life'' at a late-night hearing which lasted more than eight hours.

Mrs Justice Hogg had ruled in favour of doctors.

The judge decided that specialists could lawfully stop providing chemotherapy, end ''neuro-surgical intervention'' and not resuscitate.

But lawyers today told another judge, at another Court of Protection hearing in London, that the teenager was still alive.

Barrister John McKendrick, who represented the man's father, told Mr Justice Newton: "(He) has surpassed all expectations and remains alive."

Mr Justice Newton agreed that updated evidence on the man's condition should be provided and he indicated that the case would be re-analysed at a further Court of Protection hearing in London in the near future.

The judge said neither the teenager, who lives in the south of England, nor the hospital trust responsible for his care, could be identified.

Mr Justice Newton heard submissions from Mr McKendrick, from the man's mother - who spoke via a telephone link to the court - from Vikram Sachdeva QC, for the hospital trust which initially asked the Court of Protection to consider the man's case, and from barrister Katie Gollop, who represented the man.

Mr McKendrick told the judge that all parties had agreed that an independent specialist should provide a report on the man which could be considered at the next hearing.

The hearing before Mrs Justice Hogg started late on Friday February 13 and ran into the early hours of the next day.

Trust bosses made an emergency application to the court late on Friday and asked Mrs Justice Hogg to rule that doctors could lawfully stop providing treatment.

A public hearing started at around 4pm on Friday and ended shortly after midnight.

The teenager's father travelled to London with the aim of being at the hearing.

But he returned to his son's bedside, after leaving instructions with lawyers, when doctors said the teenager had taken turn for the worst.

The teenager's mother pleaded with the judge from the hospital where he was being cared for - via a telephone link to the courtroom .

She gave evidence, questioned consultants over the phone and appeared to be choking with emotion on a number of occasions.

Mrs Justice Hogg at one point ordered a break in the hearing to allow the woman to go to the teenager's bedside

The woman's husband joined her when he got back to the hospital from London and held the receiver when Mrs Justice Hogg announced her decision at around midnight.

Mrs Justice Hogg had described the case as "tragic".

She had been told that the teenager had been diagnosed with a brain tumour by the time he was one and was registered blind, but he had been able to go to school, travel and play some sports.

Doctors had said his condition had deteriorated recently and the cancer had spread. They had said he could not walk or talk and could only lift his limbs with difficulty.

The neuro-surgeon said the teenager was ''going in and out of coma''.

All clinicians involved in his care had concluded that further chemotherapy and neuro-surgical intervention was futile and not in his best interests, Mrs Justice Hogg had been told.

The teenager's mother told Mrs Justice Hogg that her son was ''absolutely adored'' and a ''miracle child''.

And she urged Mrs Justice Hogg not to rule that he has to die.

''I am fighting for my child's life," she said.

''He is a sick child but he is coping. (He) is not dying.''

She questioned the neurosurgeon and a cancer specialist who gave evidence to Mrs Justice Hogg.

''Give him a chance. Maybe chemo will work. If (he) goes, he goes. But he may not. He may have months to live,'' she said.

''(He) may not be able to do martial arts but he talks, he walks. He is a pleasure to be with.''

The woman said her son had a normal life for a child who had a brain tumour.

''It just seems you want him to die. The sooner the better,'' she told one doctor at the hearing.

''It makes me worry you are not acting in his best interests. You just want it to get over and done with.''

She added: ''We may be lucky and he will live a few months or a miracle will happen. You just have to believe he will pull through.''

The woman said her son still got a ''lot of enjoyment'' from his family and told Mrs Justice Hogg that they ''absolutely adored'' him.

''He is a miracle child and has survived things you thought he would not,'' she said.

''He deserves a chance.'

''Doctors should treat the patient to the very end. That is how I see it.

''He deserves the right to be treated. He is still your patient.''

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