“Best interests” and withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment from an adult who lacks capacity in the parens patriae jurisdiction
Willmott, Lindy, White, Benjamin P., & Smith, Malcolm K. (2014) “Best interests” and withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment from an adult who lacks capacity in the parens patriae jurisdiction. Journal of Law and Medicine, 21(4), pp. 920-941.
Disputes about withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment are increasingly coming before Australian Supreme Courts. Such cases are generally heard in the parens patriae jurisdiction where the test applied is what is in the patient’s “best interests”. However, the application of the “best interests” test, and its meaning, remains unclear in this context. To shed light on this emerging body of jurisprudence, this article analyses the Australian superior court decisions that consider an adult’s best interests in the context of decisions about life-sustaining treatment. We identify a number of themes from the current body of cases and consider how these themes may guide future decision-making. After then considering the law in the United Kingdom, we suggest an approach for assessing best interests that could be adopted by Australian Supreme Courts. We argue that the suggested approach will lead to a more structured and systematic decision-making process that better promotes the best interests of the patient.
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