Terminally ill teenager wins the right to die with dignity

A British teenager who is terminally ill has won the right to refuse treatment and forced a hospital to drop its High Court case.

Thirteen year old Hannah Jones of Marden, near Hereford, has a hole in her heart and needs a heart transplant to survive - doctors say without one she has only six months to live.

Hannah previously suffered from leukaemia and her heart has been weakened by the drugs she was required to take from the age of five - but Hannah is adamant she does not want surgery and has expressed the desire to die with dignity at home.

There was apparently no guarantee the operation would be successful and even if it was it would mean a life of constant medication.

Hannah has apparently spent much of the past eight years in hospital undergoing treatment for leukaemia and the crippling heart condition cardiomyopathy - her heart is only able to pump at 10% of its capacity and Hannah has already had three operations to fit pacemakers.

Herefordshire Primary Care Trust's bid to force her to have a heart transplant was dropped after a child protection officer visited Hannah and interviewed her.

Hannah apparently managed to convince the officer that this was a decision she had made on her own and she had thought about it over a long period of time, and eventually the court proceeding was dropped after treatment options were discussed and Hannah ably expressed quite clearly that she did not wish to go back into hospital for cardiac treatment.

Hannah says she wants to stop treatment and spend the rest of her life at home - a request her parents fully support which has made them proud of her.

Hannah's father Andrew, aged 43, has reportedly said his daughter has been through enough and the hospital's behaviour is outrageous.

Hannah's mother Kirsty, 42, is a former intensive care nurse, and she says if Hannah did have a transplant it was likely she would need another within five years.

Her father says the hospital presumed her parents did not have Hannah's best interests at heart and the added stress of a possible court hearing or being forcibly taken into hospital was disgraceful.

Last week her father was forced to cancel holiday plans to take Hannah to Disneyland because he could not get insurance for her - the family had been given the holiday to the U.S. by a charity.

The British Medical Association's ethics committee, says a child of Hannah's age is able to make an informed decision to refuse treatment which is backed by a House of Lords 1980s ruling that a child who understands the issues and consequences could be considered legally competent.

A locum GP is suspected of raising concerns regarding Hannah with the child protection team.

The BMA says while it may be understandable why a doctor might have taken this action, in this particular case it is clear that the parents and the child had made a perfectly reasonable decision and the doctor obviously came to a different view and was trying to use the law to support his view.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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