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HSE says it's doing everything it can to get capacity test for man who wants to be allowed die

The man has informed both his family and his solicitor that he wants his ventilator turned off.

Image: Shutterstock/Pavel L Photo and Video

THE HSE HAS told the High Court that it is doing everything it can to have the mental capacity of a paralysed man who wants to be allowed to die assessed by a medical expert.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was left paralysed from the neck down after suffering injuries including a broken neck following a fall earlier this year.

He requires the use of a mechanical ventilator to breathe at the hospital where he is currently receiving treatment. 

There is no hope that the man, who is a father and a grandfather, will recover from his injuries.

In High Court proceedings commenced by the man, who is supported by his family, in recent days he seeks orders directing the HSE to cease providing him with any treatment that keeps him alive.

The court has heard that his wish to die has not been complied with because for legal and ethical reasons.

The HSE say the man needs to undergo an assessment to determine that he has the mental capacity to make the decision to halt the treatment keeping him alive.

Such an assessment must be carried out by a suitable qualified independent medical person, such as a consultant psychiatrist or neuropsychiatrist.

The man’s family say that any delay in carrying out the assessment of his capacity will add to his and their extreme anguish and upset. They also say he is ‘compos mentis’.

When the action returned before Justice Niamh Hyland today Barry O’Donnell SC for the HSE said it have been trying “at the highest level” to obtain the services of a suitably qualified profession to carry out the assessment.

Finding somebody to carry out that role has not been an easy process, counsel said, adding that it was hoped somebody can be found as soon as possible.

Counsel said the HSE is very much aware of the man and his family’s distress, and is sympathetic.

However, the HSE has “real concerns” about the man’s capacity, which it accepts needs to be assessed, counsel said.

There were also issues over when an assessment should be carried, given the man sustained what were described as rare injuries relatively recently.

Jonathan Kilfeather SC with Ellen Gleeson Bl, for the man said that the case was not proceeding in an adversarial manner, and accepted the HSE was doing everything possible regarding getting somebody to carry out the assessment.

Counsel said the matter was urgent as far as his client is concerned, adding that the man and his family remain very upset over the situation.

Counsel also expressed the view that some sort of preliminary assessment on the man’s capacity could also be carried out.

Justice Hyland said she was adjourning the matter to Thursday, when the court could be updated regarding the HSE’s efforts to secure somebody suitable to carry out the assessment.

In his action the man seeks an injunction restraining the HSE from continuing to provide him with various life prolonging treatments and supports.

These include mechanical ventilation and providing him with oxygen so he can breathe.

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He also seeks a declaration from the court that the continued administration of life prolonging treatment against his wishes, amounts to a breach of his rights to autonomy dignity and bodily integrity under Article 40.3 of the Irish Constitution.

The man, who has difficulty speaking but can communicate with others, has in recent days informed both his family and his solicitor that he wants the ventilator turned off.

Previously the court heard that the man, has communicated with his doctors and family that he wants the ventilator he is on turned off as he “does not want to go on”.

The court heard that his family say that “every day is another day of torture to him.”

The turning off of the machine would result in the man dying within minutes. The court heard man had lived an active life prior to his accident.

His family had been told that if the man continues to receive treatment he could be moved to another hospital and could live for another 18 months, where he would require 24-hour a day care.

The man and his family have also claimed that they were told by his doctors that they wanted to give him more time before making a decision that would end his life, and that he might change his mind.

According to his family man is very clear in his instructions, and is very anxious not to have to wait several further weeks for a capacity test along with a further period thereafter before his wishes are carried out.

About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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