Syeda Ahsan v University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (unreported 31/7/06)

A was a 48 year-old mother and a Muslim who suffered 2 heart attacks following a bungled hysterectomy operation and she fell into a persistent vegetative state.  She was expected to live for a further 6 years.  The Trust admitted liability but believed that she should be cared for at a nursing home rather than in her own home.  A’s husband wished her to be cared for at home where she would be able to receive the spiritual benefits of her religion even though she would be unable to pray.

The issue for the court in what were private law proceedings in negligence, and not judicial review, was whether the care advocated by the family was reasonable in the circumstances.  The fact that a cheaper regime was available was irrelevant.  Although it was difficult to demonstrate that the benefit of prayer was one which the court could measure, it held that A would have wanted to be cared for by her family at home so that her life would continue to be influenced by her religion.   A reasonable person would not think it unreasonable to take into account such religious beliefs, even if the patient had been rendered severely mentally incapacitated.  As far as practicable, such people should be cared for with due regard to their personal dignity and religious beliefs.  The court decided that the cost of A’s care should be assessed on the basis that it would be reasonable for her to be cared for at home and that her family were entitled to interim payments pending that assessment so that she could embark on a staged return home to ensure the feasibility of the arrangements.

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