A family is set to sue a hospital after doctors left their suicidal daughter to die because she had signed a ‘living will’ asking them not to save her.
An inquest ruled last week that it would have been “unlawful” for doctors to treat Kerrie Wooltorton because she arrived at hospital after poisoning herself carrying a note saying she did not want to be saved.
As well as suing, the parents of Miss Wooltorton are also calling for the law to be changed in order to stop healthy people using it to commit suicide.
Living wills were introduced under the 2005 Mental Capacity Act to allow patients, who were deemed mentally competent, to decide what treatment they do not want if they become terminally ill.
Mr and Mrs Wooltorton are convinced that their daughter, who had a history of self harm, was in no state to make a reasoned decision.
Mr Wooltorton, 50, confirmed that the family has now instructed solicitors to prepare a civil case against the hospital.
He said: “None of it is going to bring our daughter back but it could stop someone else from having to go through the same thing.”
“I am very concerned now about copycat cases, the law needs to be changed.
“The law stinks”, he added.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham has signalled that he may review the law because living wills were not intended for this purpose.
A spokesman for Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Trust said there were “categorically” no grounds for bringing a civil case against it.
“The coroner reached a clear verdict which established that Kerrie was mentally competent, had refused treatment in the full knowledge of the consequences, and died as a result,” he said.
The Trust also said the Coroner had stated “any attempt to treat Kerrie without her consent would have been unlawful”.
Miss Wooltorton’s best friend Melanie Miller, 28, claimed that she got the idea of poisoning herself from an episode of the BBC television drama Casualty.
“During the course of the year she died she had tried to take her life many times, always the same way. She had seen it on Casualty once”, Miss Miller told ITV Anglia news.
“I knew one day she would succeed in taking her own life. I tried to dissuade her and she went to various counselling sessions and was admitted into hospital for her mental health problems, but nothing seemed to help.”
14/09/2007 To whom this may concern
If I come into hospital regarding an overdose or any attempt of my life, I would like for NO life saving treatment to be given. I would appreciate it if you could continue to give medicines to help relieve my discomfort, painkillers, oxygen etc. I would hope these wishes would be carried out without loads of questioning.
Please be assured that I am 100% aware of the consequences of this and the probable outcome of drinking antifreeze, eg death in 95-99% of cases and if I survive then kidney failure, I understand and accept them and will take 100% responsibility for this decision.
I am aware that you may think that because I called the ambulance I therefore want treatment, THIS IS NOT THE CASE! I do however want to be comfortable as nobody wants to die alone and scared and without going into details there are loads of reasons I do not want to die at home which I realise you will not understand and I apologise for this.
Please understand that I definitely don’t want any form of ventilation, resuscitation or dialysis. These are my wishes please respect and carry them out.