Ms B v An NHS Hospital Trust: FD 22 Mar 2002

The applicant had come to suffer from a completely disabling condition, and requested that her life support machine be turned off. She did not want to live on a ventilator, and had made a living will. She was found at first to have capacity to make that decision, but the doctors revised their opinions. She now sought a declaration that she had capacity, and that her treatment against her will was unlawful.
Held: The right to determine what shall be done with one’s own body is a fundamental right in our society. There is a presumption of capacity. It was dangerous to generalise about the effect of particular placements in this case her presence in an intensive care unit as reducing capacity. Capacity might need to be established to a higher degree where an especially grave decision was being made. In this case the patient had capacity. The treating clinicians and the hospital should always have in mind that a seriously physically disabled patient who is mentally competent, has the same right to personal autonomy, and to make decisions as any other person with mental capacity. If there is no disagreement about competence but the doctors are for any reason unable to carry out the wishes of the patient, their duty is to find other doctors who will do so.


The President, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss


(2002) 65 BMLR 149, [2002] Fam Law 423, [2002] 2 FCR 1, [2002] 1 FLR 1090, [2002] 2 All ER 449, [2002] Lloyd’s Rep Med 265, [2002] EWHC 429 (Fam)




England and Wales


CitedS v McC; W v W HL 1972
The distinction between the court’s ‘custodial’ and ‘protective’ jurisdictions was recognised. The case concerned the ordering of blood tests with a view to determining the paternity of a child involved in divorce proceedings. This was not a matter . .
CitedIn re F (Mental Patient: Sterilisation) HL 4-May-1989
Where a patient lacks capacity, there is the power to provide him with whatever treatment or care is necessary in his own best interests. Medical treatment can be undertaken in an emergency even if, through a lack of capacity, no consent had been . .
CitedIn re T (Adult: Refusal of Treatment) CA 1992
A patient’s right to veto medical treatment is absolute: ‘This right of choice is not limited to decisions which others might regard as sensible. It exists notwithstanding that the reasons for making the choice are rational, irrational, unknown or . .
CitedIn re MB (Medical Treatment) CA 26-Mar-1997
The patient was due to deliver a child. A delivery by cesarean section was necessary, but the mother had a great fear of needles, and despite consenting to the operation, refused the necessary consent to anesthesia in any workable form.
Held: . .
CitedSt George’s Healthcare National Health Service Trust v S, Regina v Collins and Others ex parte S CA 8-May-1998
The authority wanted S to be admitted to hospital, if necessary against her will. She was pregnant and wanted to have a natural birth, even at great risk to herself and her baby. She had refused medical treatment for eclampsia. The caesarian had by . .

Cited by:

CitedNicklinson and Another, Regina (on The Application of) SC 25-Jun-2014
Criminality of Assisting Suicide not Infringing
The court was asked: ‘whether the present state of the law of England and Wales relating to assisting suicide infringes the European Convention on Human Rights, and whether the code published by the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 24 July 2022; Ref: scu.170008