The sad tale of the policeman Paul Briggs demonstrates what happens without power of attorney.
Generally, Court of Protection cases are private. In ordinary circumstances, you or I would never have heard of Paul Briggs.
Meet Mr Briggs
Mr Briggs joined the army at 16; he served in Northern Ireland then Afghanistan. On leaving the armed forces, he joined his local police force on Merseyside. In July 2015, while on his way to work, he was struck by a car driven by Chelsea Rowe (Ms Rowe subsequently pleaded guilty to, was convicted of, and sentenced to a term of imprisonment for dangerous driving.)
Paul suffered several serious injuries, including a bleed on the brain, five spinal fractures and bruising to his internal organs.
The accident left him in a minimally conscious state.
Paul’s wife, Lindsey Briggs, petitioned the Court of Protection to turn off his life support system. But, she was opposed by Hospital Trust where he was being treated and the Official Solicitor. Lindsey said: ‘I think he would see it as torture, just as hell, that everything he believes in and he lives for would just be taken away from him. He would be living for no reason. I don’t want him to suffer any more.’
‘You think as a wife you’ll be able to speak for your husband… their voice. It’s shocking to find you’re not.’Lindsey Briggs, 40
The Things He’d Seen
She further said, ‘He used to talk about the horrible things he’d seen at accidents – the victims who ended up brain-damaged in the centre where he is now. Paul visited them and said, in those situations, it would have been kinder if they had just died at the scene. I wish Paul had not been resuscitated after the accident. In films, people survive and recover – in real life there is no Hollywood outcome.’
‘He can’t be some medical experiment or a legal file on a desk. If there had been a document, a statement of his wishes, his death would have been non-negotiable. But Paul didn’t have one. Who does? You think as a wife you’ll be able to speak for your husband, that you can be their voice. It’s shocking to find you’re not.’
The judge ruled in December 2016 that it was not in Paul’s best interest for treatment to continue, it was therefore lawful to withdraw treatment.
The Official Solicitor sought leave to appeal the judge’s decision, but thought better of it. Paul was moved to a hospice, where he died in January 2017.
Unfortunately, the case of the late Mr Briggs shows us what happens without lasting power of attorney.
Lindsey was right, with a
statement of his wishes, power of attorney it’d have been non-negotiable.