Pay-out after woman is kept alive for two years despite ‘living will’

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Brenda Grant

The grieving family of a stroke victim in the UK have received a £45,000 National Health Service (NHS) pay-out after doctors kept her alive for almost two years against her will.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Brenda Grant, 81, suffered a stroke that left her unable to walk, talk or swallow in October 2012. Without telling her family, she made a living will, also known as an advanced healthcare directive, instructing doctors not to “prolong her life” if she was unlikely to recover. Grant said she feared “degradation and indignity more than death” after seeing her own mother lose independence after suffering from dementia.

The document said Grant should not have treatment to prolong her life if: “If I suffer from one or more of the conditions mentioned in the schedule, and I have become unable to participate effectively in decisions about my medical care, and that two independent doctors (one a consultant) are of the opinion that I am unlikely to recover from illness or impairment involving severe distress or incapacity for rational existence.”

It also confirmed she should not be given food, but that distressing symptoms should be controlled by pain relief.

But, the report says, doctors at the George Eliot Hospital, in Nuneaton, lost the document among a pile of medical notes so she was fed through a tube for 22 months. She was fitted with a stomach peg to enable her to receive food artificially before she was discharged into a nursing home.

The report says once in the nursing home, Grant became agitated and tried to pull out the tubes in her arm, prompting staff to put mittens on her hands. She was re-admitted to hospital at which point her GP made the hospital and her family aware of her living will. After appealing to the hospital to respect their mother’s wishes, all treatment was withdrawn and Grant died on 4 August, 2014.

The report says following her death, Grant’s family launched legal action against the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust claiming they had breached their mother’s legal rights. The trust apologised for its failure and admitted liability and the family were awarded £45,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

Grant’s daughter Tracy Barker, said she had sought legal advice to highlight the case so the same thing did not happen to others.

The George Eliot Hospital Trust said: “It is accepted that the Trust failed to act in accordance with the deceased’s advanced directive and failed to store the advanced directive in a way that it could easily be noted.”

The Trust said it had now begun recording the existence of an advanced directive on the front page of a patient’s notes.

The Daily Telegraph report

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