A senior nurse has defended the legal system that threatened to take a terminally ill teenager to the High Court over her right to die.
Doctors attempted to take Hannah Jones, from Herefordshire, to the High Court in London after she refused a life-saving heart transplant. The case was dismissed after the 13 year old convinced child protection officers that she had made the right decision for herself and her family.
However a nurse, who has been caring for terminally ill patients for over 30 years, has spoken out in defence of the law that could have seen Hannah operated on against her will.
The source, who asked not to be named, said: “They were right to take her to court. From a legal perspective she’s underage and the doctors would be held liable [for the operation not going ahead].“The law is there to protect both doctors and patients and I don’t think it should be changed because this is an exceptional case.”
However, the Hannah Jones case has re-opened debate in Britain about whether the right to die law should be relaxed to allow terminally ill patients to die with dignity.
The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg have all legalised euthanasia in recent years, with other major European countries set to follow. In Britain, adult patients have the right to refuse treatment but cannot seek medical aid to die at a time of their choosing: causing suffering to both the patient and their families.
MSP for the Lothians, Margo Macdonald has been one of the more vocal Scottish campaigners for euthanasia to be introduced in the UK.
During a BBC documentary recorded in July, the Parkinson’s sufferer declared: “I feel strongly that, in the event of losing my dignity or being faced with the prospect of a painful or protracted death, I should have the right to choose to curtail my own, and my family’s, suffering.”
Despite the politician’s strong words, any change in the law would have to be agreed with the British Medical Association(BMA), who regulate doctors and nurses in Britain.
On the BMA website, a 1200 word essay explains why they are against euthanasia being legalised. However, Dr Tony Calland, chair of the BMA’s medical ethics committee supported Hannah’s decision indicating change could be on the horizon.
He said: “Decisions to refuse life-prolonging treatment are always extremely difficult and emotive. What is paramount is that decisions are made in the best interests of the patient.”