Doctors should stop providing life-support treatment to a police officer who has been in a minimally conscious state since 2015, a judge has ruled.
Paul Briggs, 43, suffered a brain injury in a crash on his way to work for Merseyside Police.
His wife Lindsey had told the Court of Protection treatment should be stopped “given his previously expressed wishes” and he should be allowed to die.
Doctors treating Mr Briggs had opposed the withdrawal of treatment.
They had advised the judge to be cautious and a specialist said there was “potential” for the soldier-turned-policeman to emerge from the minimally conscious state.
But Mr Justice Charles said Mr Briggs, a Gulf War veteran, should go on to a palliative care regime at a hospice.
Mrs Briggs said: “The court case was the hardest thing we have ever had to do but we did it for Paul, to honour his wishes.”
She said she was “grateful” Mr Justice Charles had shown compassion.
“He has been able to place himself in Paul’s situation, and for that we will be forever thankful”, she said.
The Official Solicitor is to seek leave to appeal against Tuesday’s decision.
The role of the Official Solicitor is to act for people who are vulnerable because of their lack of mental capacity.
Lawyers for the Official Solicitor represented PC Briggs’ interests at the hearing.
Mrs Briggs said she was “dismayed” to learn the decision might be challenged.
Disorders of consciousness
- Consciousness requires both wakefulness and awareness – and damage to the brain can cause disorders of consciousness
- A coma is when a person shows no signs of being awake and no signs of being aware; they lie with their eyes closed and do not respond to their environment, voices or pain
- A vegetative state is when a person is awake but shows no signs of awareness; they may wake up and fall asleep at regular intervals, have basic reflexes and regulate their breathing without assistance
- A minimally conscious state is when a person shows clear but minimal or inconsistent awareness; they may have periods where they can communicate or respond to commands
Source: NHS Choices
In July, driver Chelsea Rowe was jailed for a year for crashing into PC Briggs in Birkenhead as he was riding his motorcycle on the way to work a nightshift.
He suffered a bleed on the brain and five fractures in his spine. He has been kept alive through medical intervention.
The court heard from barrister Victoria Butler-Cole, representing Mrs Briggs, that a doctor had diagnosed Mr Briggs as “being in a permanent vegetative state”.
But doctors at the Walton Centre in Liverpool – a specialist neurology hospital – and an independent doctor determined Mr Briggs was “minimally conscious”.
A barrister representing the hospital said Mr Briggs “would benefit from a more socially stimulating environment”.
Mrs Briggs said she had been “living in darkness and despair” for the past 18 months.
Following the decision, the family “could find peace at Christmas time” knowing “Paul would finally be free from pain and suffering,” she said.