A British woman diagnosed with schizophrenia won the right not to have her leg amputated, despite being infected with gangrene, which has a high probability of spreading.
The unidentified woman in her 60s was checked into a West Midlands hospital where her infected foot became mummified and fell off. Doctors wanted to perform a life-saving amputation, but a judge refused. Despite the fact that the patient “lacks insight” into her mental illness, she is “guaranteed by law” to make a decision that could result in her death.
Justice Peter Jackson ruled that choice is “a part of what it means to be human” and said a forced operation is a “criminal assault.”
Attorneys for the Heart of England National Health Services Foundation Trust appeared in court in London asking to carry out the procedure without the woman’s consent, arguing that she “lacked capacity” to understand the choice she is making.
Jackson ruled that her mental illness had not robbed her of the power to make a the choice.
"The freedom to choose for oneself is a part of what it means to be human,” Jackson ruled.
“Anyone capable of making decisions has an absolute right to accept or refuse medical treatment, regardless of the wisdom or consequences of the decision,” he said. "The decision does not have to be justified to anyone. In the absence of consent, any invasion of the body will be a criminal assault. The fact that the intervention is well-meaning or therapeutic makes no difference.”
The woman had an ulcer on her foot last May and it gradually grew worse. She was admitted to a hospital on New Year’s Eve.
"Her right foot was now entirely mummified and, by the end of January, it had come off, leaving an unresolved wound,” the judge said.
"Many who suffer from mental illness are well able to make decisions about their medical treatment and it is important not to make unjustified assumptions to the contrary,” he concluded.