Teen who changed her mind over heart returns to school

A teenage girl who refused a heart transplant but then changed her mind and received a new heart is now returning to school.

Hannah Jones, who is 14, hit the headlines when she won a legal battle to refuse a heart transplant.

But in July she changed her mind and received a heart transplant just a week after putting herself on the waiting list.

Now she is returning to St Mary’s High School in Herefordshire for three days a week.

Hannah said it was “difficult” going to school but added it was “nice to get back to normal”.

She explained her decision to ask for a heart transplant: “I changed my mind because the way I was going I wasn’t going to get much of a longer life and I wanted to see the world a bit and do more things.

“I think if I had said no again to the operation I would have regretted it because I would not have been well enough to do those things.”

Hannah said one of the greatest benefits of her new heart was that she could run around and play with her brothers and sisters.

She said she was also looking forward to going on family holidays to celebrate her improved health.

Hannah’s mother Kirsty described the long heart transplant operation: “She spent ten days in the intensive care unit unconscious with her chest open because they couldn’t close it up.”

Hannah developed chest infections that twice turned into pneumonia and then caught swine flu, she added.

“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster but that is nothing compared to what we experienced previously,” Mrs Jones said.

Hannah had been told that a heart transplant would be risky and that her chance of survival would be slim, but later doctors reassessed her and decided she had a good chance of making a full recovery.

Some press reports have dubbed this a ‘right to die’ case, but experts say it was really about whether the teenager’s decision to refuse damaging treatment at the time should have been accepted without question or not.

Having spent much of her life in and out of hospital, Hannah originally decided not to accept the offer of a heart transplant operation which she might not survive.

When the hospital was informed of her decision not to have a heart transplant, however, they began court proceedings to challenge that decision.

Medical law and ethics expert Dr Deborah Bowman explained that the law makes a distinction between a minor’s ability to consent to treatment and to refuse it.

Consent is usually accepted without question, but when a child says ‘no’ to treatment which appears to be in his or her best interests, the local healthcare trust is allowed to challenge that choice.

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