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Woman in 'forced' surgery ruling

Thu, 05/27/2010 - 3:44am
BBC

A cancer patient who has a phobia of hospitals should be forced to undergo a life-saving operation if necessary, a High Court judge has ruled.

Sir Nicholas Wall, sitting at the Court of Protection, ruled doctors could forcibly sedate the 55-year-old woman - referred to as PS.

PS lacked the capacity to make decisions about her health, he said.

Doctors at her NHS Foundation trust had argued PS would die if her ovaries and fallopian tubes were not removed.

Evidence presented to Sir Nicholas, head of the High Court Family Division, said PS was diagnosed with uterine cancer last year.

'Entirely right'

It was slow growing but would, without surgery, ultimately spread and kill her, he heard.

The woman, who is said to have a "significant impairment in intellectual functioning", has failed or refused to attend hospital for treatment. She has a needle phobia as well as a hospital phobia.

In his ruling, Sir Nicholas said if persuasion failed, doctors could sedate PS in order to get her to hospital - and to detain her there while she recovered after the operation.

He said he was "entirely satisfied" that it was "right to make the declarations sought by the trust".

"Although the application is unusual and may involve the use of force, I am nonetheless impressed by the care and thought which have gone into ensuring that PS receives the treatment which she plainly needs and which it is plainly in her interests to have," he said.

The Court of Protection usually sits in secret, but Sir Nicholas said he made the ruling public to help others "who may be faced with a similar dilemma".


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