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Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well Being & Sport

First published:
25 October 2017
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

A Court of Protection judgment was published [today] about a Welsh person in a permanent vegetative state who had been receiving life sustaining treatment for some years. This person has now passed away after the Court of Protection gave permission for treatment to be withdrawn.

Members may also be aware of other recent court judgments relating to the need for legal proceedings in every case before life-supporting treatment is withdrawn from persons in permanent vegetative or minimally conscious states. In September of this year, the Court of Protection in a significant judgment concluded that a decision to withdraw clinically assisted nutrition and hydration taken by clinicians in accordance with the prevailing professional guidance and the relevant statutory frameworks will be lawful. Although, the court was keen to emphasise that it is always available where there is disagreement, or where it is felt for some other reason that an application to court should be made.

These are complex, sensitive and important issues and the Welsh Government is monitoring further developments closely. In the meantime, I want to be assured that those working in the health and care sector here in Wales are fully equipped to deal with such issues should they be faced with them. We are therefore taking a number of actions to understand the current position in Wales in relation to people who are in a pemanent vegetative or minimally conscious state. This includes the Chief Medical Officer writing to all health boards in Wales to assess the potential number of cases in Wales and to seek assurance that their diagnosis, care and treatment is being undertaken in their best interests.

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer has met with family members of the individual that [today’s] ruling concerns. They are keen that lessons be learnt from their experience.

We need to understand the decision making in this particular case and to work closely with all relevant parties to ensure that appropriate lessons are learnt.

Given this individual case and the wider court judgments, I have also asked officials to consider, once the relevant consideration has concluded and in light of any further developments in this area, whether there is a need for any additional guidance, education or training to be developed for the health and social care sector in Wales.

Out of respect for the family wishes, I have not provided full details of the case within this statement and I would urge everyone to respect their privacy.