Man fears lengthy legal process may have prolonged wife's suffering

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A man whose 50-year-old wife has been in a minimally conscious state for several months after suffering brain damage fears that her suffering has been prolonged by the speed of the legal decision-making process, a judge has been told.

The man says everyone involved agreed that doctors should stop providing life-support treatment.

He says he cannot understand why a decision has taken so long.

His concerns emerged on Tuesday when a judge in a specialist court ruled that the woman could be allowed to die.

Mr Justice MacDonald said the man was angry and dismayed and felt "very strongly" that the "matter" had taken too long to resolve.

The judge analysed the case at a hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered, in London.

He said the woman could not be identified but bosses at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had responsibility for her care.

The judge, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court, said there was "uncertainty" about the law relating to people in the woman's position.

He suggested that the sooner that uncertainty was "resolved" the better.

Lawyers representing the trust told how the woman, who is being artificially fed through a tube, had suffered complications after an operation during the summer of 2017 and been left with brain damage.

Barrister Victoria Butler-Cole, who led the trust's legal team, said the woman had been diagnosed as being in a minimally conscious state.

She said doctors thought that artificial feeding should stop and the woman should be allowed to die.

The woman's husband agreed.

Mr Justice MacDonald ruled that the woman should be allowed to die and gave medics permission to stop artificial feeding.

"(The woman's husband) feels very strongly that this matter has taken too long to resolve," said the judge.

"In circumstances where all parties agree on the way forward."

The judge added: "As he sees it all the process has done is prolong (her) suffering."

He said there was "uncertainty" about the law relating to people in the woman's position - Supreme Court justices are expected to analyse issues in the near future.

Mr Justice MacDonald added: "All I will say is that (the man's) anger and dismay demonstrates that the sooner current uncertainty in this area of the law is resolved the better for families."

The judge said those who knew the woman had described her as "vivacious and out-going".

He said the evidence demonstrated that the quality of life she now had was not one she would have wanted to be preserved.