New Judgment: Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust v James  UKSC 67
30 Wednesday Oct 2013
On appeal from  EWCA Civ 65.
Concerns how doctors and courts should decide when it is in the best interests of a patient who lacks capacity to be given treatments necessary to sustain life. Held: the starting point is the strong presumption that it is in a person’s best interests to stay alive. The fundamental question is whether it is in the patient’s best interests, and therefore lawful, to give the treatment, not whether it is lawful to withhold it. In determining ‘best interests’, the judge was right to consider whether the proposed treatments would be futile in the sense of being ineffective or being of no benefit to the patient. He was right to weigh the burdens of treatment against the benefits of a continued existence, and give great weight to the patient’s family life. He was right to be cautious in circumstances which were fluctuating. A treatment was not futile if it enabled a patient to resume a quality of life which the patient would regard as worthwhile.