An NHS trust has been given permission by the Court of Protection to carry out medical treatment on a woman who suffers from a learning disability and has a long-standing fear of hospitals.
A judge declared today that “K”, who cannot be identified, “lacks capacity” to make decisions for herself and it is in her best interests that she attends hospital and undergoes assessment and treatment after experiencing persistent pain in her stomach.
Mr Justice Moylan, sitting in London, said: “Although the risk of cancer is relatively low, it is still a significant risk - and indeed K has lost weight, which could be a further indication of cancer.”
In an explanatory note to the court, lawyers for the trust, which is in north-west England, said: “Successfully achieving the assessment and treatment of K’s condition in hospital is likely to require the use of restraint and chemical sedation.”
The judge said the 53-year-old woman, who lives in a residential home, started to suffer discomfort early last year and then began to complain about her condition more frequently.
K underwent a brief, gynaecological examination but was unwilling to undergo any further treatment.
The judge said she was “reluctant to attend hospital, having a long-standing fear of hospitals”.
Notwithstanding her fear, she had attended but became anxious after having to wait for her appointment. Although she agreed to go to an examination room, she refused to be examined.
The judge said medical experts had agreed she lacked capacity, and those acting on K’s behalf, including the Official Solicitor, were not challenging that finding.
He declared: “I am satisfied by the evidence that K does lack capacity to make a decision about medical treatment, in particular whether she should undergo the proposed assessment and treatment in respect of her current condition.”
The judge also declared he was satisfied that it was in K’s best interests to be escorted to hospital in an ambulance and undergo a proposed hysteroscopy under general anaesthetic.
The judge said an ultrasound scan had been ruled out by medical experts because, given her history, K was unlikely to remain sufficiently still.
A hysteroscopy was a more detailed examination and more likely to identify what was causing her current symptoms, said the judge.
An independent consultant anaesthetist advised that the trust’s proposals were “the least restrictive steps available”.