Bishop comments on Court of Protection’s judgment on teenager with mitochondrial disorder

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Bishop John Sherrington, Lead Bishop for Life Issues for the Bishops’ Conference, has commented on the case of a 19-year-old woman with mitochondrial disease after a Court of Protection judge ruled that she lacks the capacity to make decisions about her treatment.

Cited in legal documents as ‘ST’, the teenager wants to travel to Canada for an experimental therapy and does not want to proceed with end-of-life care.

Prior to the judgment, psychiatric experts instructed by the NHS hospital where she is being treated examined ST and told the court that she has the mental capacity to make decisions about her own medical treatment.

Bishop Sherrington commented:

“I want to assure ST, her family and all those involved in her care of my prayers at this difficult time. Although I am only aware of the facts as reported in the judgment, I am nonetheless alarmed that a conclusion was reached where ST was deemed not capable of making decisions about her ongoing care and her ardent desire to continue receiving life-sustaining treatment.

“ST is a young conscious adult who, immediately prior to the Court of Protection hearing, was deemed capable of making decisions about her own care. The Court held that ST is ‘unable to make a decision for herself in relation to future medical treatment… because she does not believe the information she has been given by her doctors.’

“I am deeply concerned that a difference in opinion or a patient’s disagreement with her doctors can form the foundation on which a young, conscious woman is deemed incapable of making decisions with regards to her life and care.”