New article on PDOC – Briggs vs Briggs Judgment

When ‘Sanctity of Life’ and ‘Self-Determination’ clash: Briggs versus Briggs [2016] EWCOP 53 – implications for policy and practice

Authors: Jenny Kitzinger, Celia Kitzinger, Jakki Cowley

In a landmark judgment in the English Court of Protection, the judge (Charles J) found it to be in the best interests of a minimally conscious patient for clinically assisted nutrition and hydration (CANH) to be withdrawn, with the inevitable consequence that the patient would die. In making this judgment, it was accepted that the patient’s level of consciousness — if CANH were continued and rehabilitation provided — might improve, and that he might become capable of expressing emotions and making simple choices. The decision to withdraw treatment relied on a best interests decision, which gave great weight to the patient’s past wishes, feelings, values and beliefs, and brought a ‘holistic’ approach to understanding what this particular patient would have wanted. We draw on our own experience of supporting families, advocating for patients and training healthcare professionals in similar situations to consider the implications of the published judgment for policy and practice with patients in prolonged disorders of consciousness and their families.


This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

Compassion in Dying – Advance Decisions

Compassion in Dying this week launched a new Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment form to enable you to feel in control and express your wishes, choices, preferences with regards to medical treatment should you lose the capacity in the future to communicate or indicate what you wish to happen. Compassion in Dying explain here what this means along side the link to relevant forms:

Stay in control of your health – now and in the future

Throughout our lives we make countless decisions about our healthcare, and being in control of these choices is something many of us value. Unfortunately, often it’s only once we or a loved one has lost this autonomy that we realise just how important it is to us.

Fortunately, there is a way to remain in control, and Compassion in Dying has just made it easier and simpler than ever with our new and improved Advance Decision form.

An Advance Decision allows you to record any treatments that you do not want to be given in the future, in case you later become unable to make or communicate decisions through injury or illness. It allows you to remain at the heart of these choices, giving you peace of mind that if the worst does happen your wishes will still be followed.

Jakki Cowley of Empowerment Matters supports our new form and feels strongly that greater awareness of Advance Decisions is needed. Jakki is an advocate who helps families navigate the complicated and often traumatic legal processes which can arise when someone has lost capacity and hasn’t recorded their wishes beforehand in a legally binding way.

Jakki explains, “People assume they can just tell a family member their wishes and that’s enough – that next of kin can make these decisions on your behalf – but it is a doctor who has the final say. Without something legally binding in place like an Advance Decision, your loved ones may have to go through a traumatic court process to have your wishes respected and followed.”

The message is clear – if you want a say over your future treatment and care, make an Advance Decision. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not expensive or complicated to do so – our new form is free, simple and easy to complete. We’ve consulted with service users, clinicians, lawyers and members of the public over several months to develop a form that works for everyone and can be personalised to reflect your own wishes.

The form is now shorter and simpler, taking you through different conditions in which you could lose capacity so you can record your treatment wishes for each scenario clearly and concisely. It also includes a section in which you can state other wishes and preferences, such as where you’d like to be cared for, and your wishes regarding pain relief, pregnancy and organ donation. There is also space to include details of your Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare or anyone else you want to be involved in your care.

With this new form, recording your wishes for future treatment couldn’t be easier. It doesn’t cost you anything and you can work at a space that suits you, but the reassurance and peace of mind you’ll get for you and your loved ones is invaluable. Make an Advance Decision and ensure you stay in control of your health – now and in the future.

Compassion in Dying’s free Info Line can be reached on 0800 999 2434 or

More information can be found at