12th February 2007
STATEMENT ON MRS KELLY TAYLOR
Mrs Kelly Taylor a 30-year-old terminally ill woman from Bristol has begun a personal legal action for medical assistance to relieve her suffering following refusal by her cardiologist, palliative care consultant and GP to increase her medication to a level that would relieve her symptoms and result in her entering into a deep sedation.
Deborah Annetts, chief executive of Dignity in Dying said today (12 February)
“We have been informed by Mrs Taylor that she has instructed lawyers to take legal steps in the High Court Family Division today, in a personal action because she feels she has no other recourse to reduce her suffering. While this action is Mrs Taylor’s own personal decision, Mrs Taylor and her husband Richard have asked for our assistance to help with any press enquiries about her case in consultation with her solicitors, and we have agreed.”
Deborah Annetts continued. “Today, Mrs Taylor spoke to me and said that she wants her suffering to end. She told me:’This is about the quality of my life. I sleep 18 hours a day and I have terrible nightmares as a result of my medication. I am in constant pain, suffer from breathlessness and have bed sores.'”
“Mrs Taylor is in an intolerable position. Her case highlights the impossible dilemma that the current law presents to patients with terminal illness where pain relief and palliative care do not work to relieve their condition. Mrs Taylor told me that she wants to be able to choose the place, manner and time of her sedation which she knows may lead to her death, and would certainly do so if her living will was allowed to come into effect,” said Deborah Annetts.
“We understand a Directions hearing is taking place in the High Court Family Division today (February 12th) where lawyers for Mrs Taylor will ask that she be allowed to receive at home, sufficient pain relief that she no longer feels the pain of her symptoms. The effect of the treatment if given in sufficient quantity may be that she will become unconscious. A second effect of the administration of sedation is that it will hasten her death within a week or so of the commencement.”
1. Mrs Taylor suffers from Eisenmenger’s Syndrome affecting her heart and lungs. This condition is ultimately fatal and she has been told she has less than one year to live. Additionally, she also suffers from Klippel-fiel Syndrome affecting her spine. At the end of 2006, Mrs Taylor decided that she no longer wanted to continue living with the current level of pain that her condition causes.
2. Despite several attempts by Mrs Taylor’s cardiologist and palliative care consultant to find a combination of drugs that will relieve Mrs Kelly’s constant pain, no effective treatment has been found for her.
3. Mrs Taylor is a ‘competent patient’ able to make her wishes clear. Her body is too weak to survive a complex heart and lung transplant and she was taken off the transplant list over three years ago, (having spent 9 years on the waiting list). She is severely physically limited, and almost totally confined to a wheelchair.
4. If permission were made for morphine levels and other sedatives to be increased to a level that resulted in deep sedation, it is highly probable that given the condition of her heart and lungs, Mrs Taylor would die once these drugs were administered. Her medical practitioners have said this constitutes euthanasia.
5. Mrs Taylor’s legal team will argue that medicating to the point of sedation, as long as the intention is to relieve pain, is legally established. The right to refuse treatment in a living will is also legally established.
6. Basis for case: Mrs Taylor’s lawyers will seek a declaration as to the lawfulness of the proposed treatment which she seeks. Lawyers will argue that providing Mrs Taylor with pain relieving treatment is not unlawful since it is justified under the principle of double effect.
7. Mrs Taylor has also made an Advance Directive (Living Will) to cater for circumstances in which she loses consciousness and lacks capacity. Her Advance Directive provides that i) all medication apart from pain relief is ceased on her losing consciousness and ii) no Artificial Nutrition or Hydration procedures are used upon her.
8. The case is that treatment requested may not lawfully be refused by the Defendants (even if they are unwilling to provide it themselves) without each of the Defendants making all reasonable endeavours to secure provision by a doctor who is willing to provide it in circumstances where the treatment is lawful.
9. The Defendants in the case are the local NHS Trust in Bristol (the United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust), a local Hospice (St Peter’s Hospice) and the claimant’s GP practice (The Fishponds Family Practice). The sole basis for refusal of treatment by the Defendants is understood to be that the respective doctors consider that to provide deep sedation would amount to euthanasia.
10. Human Rights Act: Lawyers acting for Mrs Taylor will say that in so far as they provide medical services to Mrs Taylor pursuant to delegated powers under the NHS Act 1977, each of the Defendants is a public authority for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998. They will say that Mrs Taylor has been a ‘victim’ of breaches of her convention rights by the Defendants and makes a claim under s.6 of the Human Rights Act for a declaration and damages for infringement of rights under Article 3 and 8.
11. The current law forbids assisted dying. Because of this, in August 2005, Mrs Taylor made the decision to starve herself to death as the only way to die. She ended this starvation after nineteen days because it was too painful for her.
12. The British Social Attitudes Survey published recently (25 January 2007), revealed that 4 out of 5 people in the UK support the suggestion that a doctor should “probably” or “definitely” be allowed by law to end the life, at the patient’s request, of an individual with an incurable or painful illness from which they will die.
13. Mrs Diane Pretty who suffered from Motor Neurone Disease, died in May 2002 following a legal battle in the High Court and the European Court of Human Rights for the right to a medically assisted death.
14. In May 2006, the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill which would have allowed terminally ill patients to have medical assistance to die if they so choose, which included many medical safeguards, was defeated in the House of Lords at its second reading 148 votes to 100.