A middle aged socialite who wants to end her life because it has lost its “sparkle” has been granted the right to die by a British court. The judge ruling on the case admitted that his decision would be controversial, but said his position reflected the value that society puts on personal autonomy.
The 50 year old mother of three, known only as C, has refused life-saving dialysis treatment to repair her liver and kidneys, damaged during a suicide attempt in which she washed down a packet of painkillers with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.
Doctors at Kings College Hospital in South London said that, with treatment, C would be “fully expected” to survive, with her liver returning to healthy working order within six weeks, and giving her kidneys an 85-95 percent chance of total recovery.
They applied to the Court of Protection for a ruling that the woman lacked the mental capacity to make decisions in her own care, and wanted to be granted powers to treat her against her will. Without treatment, they said, she would most likely be dead within five to ten days.
But Mr Justice McDonald, ruling on the case, found in favour of C to refuse treatment. He found that her decision was in line with the lifestyle of the woman, which he described as “characterised by impulsive and self-centred decision-making without guilt or regret”.
“C has had four marriages and a number of affairs and has . . . spent the money of her husbands and lovers recklessly before moving on when things got difficult or the money ran out,” he said.
“C is a person who seeks to live life entirely and unapologetically on her own terms; that life revolving largely around her looks, men, material possessions and ‘living the high life’.”
Perhaps conscious of appearing to sit in judgement of her lifestyle, he explained that the principle was the same for any patient: “The right to refuse treatment extends to declining treatment that would, if administered, save the life of the patient,” he said.
“This position reflects the value that society places on personal autonomy in matters of medical treatment and the very long established right of the patient to choose to accept or refuse medical treatment from his or her doctor.
“Where a patient refuses life-saving medical treatment the court is only entitled to intervene in circumstances where the court is satisfied that the patient does not have the mental capacity to decide whether or not to accept or refuse such treatment.” As that criteria had not been met, he said the court had no cause to intervene.
The suicide attempt had been prompted by a diagnoses of breast cancer early last year, and in August of the same year, a failed long term relationship which led to the loss of her business and home, and the piling up of large debts, the court heard.
But her daughter also told the court that her mother had been an “entirely reluctant and at times completely indifferent mother,” adding that when one of her sisters revealed that she was pregnant, her mother reacted furiously because “she would be a grandmother and that made her feel ‘past her sell-by date’.”
Her daughter said her mother feared being “poor”, “ugly” or “old”, saying: “She has said the most important thing for her is her sparkly lifestyle. She kept saying she doesn’t want to live without her sparkle and she thinks she has lost her sparkle.”
Her daughter added that the family were devastated by their mother’s decision, saying: “We think it is a horrible decision. We don’t like the decision at all. But I cannot get away from the fact that she understands it.”