The Importance of having a Will and Lasting Power of Attorney

Wife of PC locked in a coma fights in the court to let him go

After 22 years of marriage Mrs Briggs finds herself  making the last act of love to her husband Paul Briggs.Mr Briggs a police officer had been in a coma for 18 months after her was knocked off his motor bike.He had shown no sign of regaining full consciousness, his intellect and his emotions trapped in an unreachable shadowland

To condense the case and to highlight the need for having a will and  granting lasting powers of attorney .. His wife has just won a heartbreaking legal battle against the NHS doctors and Government Lawyers.They believed in the sanctity of Mr Briggs life, whilst his wife insisted that he would want to die

While the case of Briggs versus Briggs is one family’s tragedy, it is now the crux of a national argument about who speaks for someone when they cannot: their family or the state

Mr Briggs official diagnosis is that he is “minimally conscious”. Doctors believed at best he may one day become conscious enough to know pleasure and pain- Mr Briggs family argued that this was semantic and that Mr Briggs will never attain any kind of life he would have considered worth living prior to his accident

The case brought by Mrs Briggs was heard in the Court of Protection – a court dedicated to mental health cases which has the same authority as the High Court . Usually doctors seek the court order which permits a coma victim to die. Since Mr Briggs NHS care team refused Mrs Briggs brought her own action which the Trust opposed

It was described by the judge as “a central clash of principles” in human terms, it was also a life and death fight between husband and wife, with Mr Briggs represented by the  Official Solicitor, the Government Lawyer who acts for people who are unable to act for themselves.

If there had been a document, a statement of his wishes, Mr Briggs death would have been non negotiable, but he didn’t have one so you would assume that that his wife would be able to speak for her husband and be their voice, its shocking to find that they are not.

Crucially in this case Mrs Briggs was clear about her husband wishes even though they were not documented and codified. As a police traffic officer he had experienced horrific accidents, decapitations, serious burns , the dead and more chillingly victims who ended up with devastinging brain damage.His thoughts  was that in those situations it would have been kinder if they had just died at the scene

In summary to this sad case judgement was delivered in December 2016 when the Judge agreed that given Mr Briggs current condition and bleak prognosis Mr Briggs was allowed to die leaving Mrs Briggs to make this her last act of love towards her husband.

What Mrs Briggs hopes for anything: it is that more people will write living wills setting out their wishes should they be like her husband unable to express them.She has found out in the most painful way possible that “next of kin” has no meaning in this context

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