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Court of Protection allows dying woman to leave care home

View profile for Monica Kreel
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For the Judgment click here

For the press release click here

For the press report click here

The Court of Protection team at TV Edwards represented the applicant, VE, in this important case: VE v AO & ors [2020] EWCOP 23. In a judgment that was reported in the national press, a High Court judge ordered that a woman who was terminally ill be allowed to leave her care home so that she could die surrounded by her family.

The applicant, VE, applied to the Court of Protection so that her mother AO, an elderly woman with advanced ovarian cancer, could be allowed to leave a care home to live with her for the last weeks of her life. The care home was not allowing any visitors, except for a single, short, end of life visit to “say goodbye”, due to the government guidance issued for care homes under the coronavirus emergency.

AO had a large and loving family that lived about an hour away. Her daughter, VE, feared that her mother would die alone and afraid in the care home. AO, who was originally from Nigeria, spoke very little English and found it difficult to communicate with her carers.  The Royal Borough of Greenwich – the local authority funding AO’s care – opposed the application to Court and wanted AO to stay in the care home, despite concerns expressed by the family that she could contract coronavirus in the care home which could further shorten her life.

The Court of Protection makes decisions for people who have been found to lack mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. Despite the coronavirus emergency, the Court of Protection is still having to make difficult and urgent decisions. It is mainly operating through remote hearings.

The final hearing of AO’s case was before a High Court Judge over Zoom on 20 April 2020. The Judge made an order that AO should be allowed to leave the care home immediately. Her family, who cannot be named for legal reasons, went to pick her up and take her home as soon as the hearing finished.

In her written judgment following the hearing, Mrs Justice Lieven said: “The ability to die with one’s family and loved ones seems to me to be one of the most fundamental parts of any right to private or family life…it would seem to me self-evident that such a decision by the state that prevents someone with a terminal disease from living with their family, must require a particularly high degree of justification”

Two days after returning to her family AO died surrounded, by her daughter and grandchildren.

VE, AO’s daughter, said: “Although I am very distressed at the loss of my mother, it gives me some comfort to know that she could see the family at the end of her life. She was surrounded by our love when she died. I should not have had to fight so hard for this basic human right”

Our Monica Kreel of TV Edwards represented VE in this case. She said: “Residents of care homes and their families are dealing with traumatic circumstances under the current coronavirus emergency. Visits to care homes have been stopped at a time when residents are very anxious and need support from their families to stay safe. For each and every care home resident, it is vitally important that their human rights, including their right to have adequate family contact, are upheld. This is particularly important for residents at the end of their lives. If face-to-face contact is stopped, it should be justified in each case.”  

The Court of Protection team at TV Edwards can represent you or a loved one in any welfare issue in the Court of Protection.  Please contact us on 020 3440 8000 or a_courtofprotectionreferrals@tvedwards.com to make an enquiry