Disabled groups have hailed a legal ruling as a “huge step forward”
in protecting the rights of disabled people receiving medical
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights decided that
Portsmouth Hospital Trust should have applied to the High Court for
permission to withdraw treatment from 17-year-old David Glass, who
is blind and suffers from spastic quadriplegia, epilepsy and
learning difficulties, when he was admitted with a severe
respiratory infection in 1998.
Glass’s condition deteriorated rapidly. Doctors said he was dying
and, against his family’s wishes, injected him with strong
painkillers. But he defied their predictions by pulling through.
The judges ruled that the failure to apply to the High Court
interfered with the right to respect for David’s private life and
awarded the family £7,000 damages and £10,000 costs.
The Disability Rights Commission said the decision set a precedent.
Future disputes between doctors and patients or their family over
treatment would now have to be referred to the High Court, except
in exceptional circumstances.
Disability charity Scope hoped that doctors would, in the light of
the case, take “a wider view in any life or death decisions for
Portsmouth Hospitals Trust accepted that it should have taken the
advice of the High Court in David’s case but said doctors had acted
on legal advice.