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Polish government ‘last hope’ for comatose Catholic patient denied food and fluids in UK hospital

The European Human Rights Court has rejected plea from the man’s family, but the Polish government may yet appeal to the European court
Fri Jan 8, 2021 - 10:14 am EST
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DEVON, England, January 8, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The Polish government is the “last hope” for a family who objects to the removal of hydration and nutrition from their family member in England.

Last night the European Court of Human Rights denied the birth family of a patient publicly known only as “P” or “RS” their third application for interim measures preventing his death. As a result, the National Health Service (NHS) facility with custody of RS ceased providing the comatose man hydration and nutrition through a tube. The Polish citizen is expected to die of dehydration in the next few days. 

A court order has proscribed the publication of the names of the patient, his family members and his doctors.

Pavel Stroilov of the Christian Legal Centre, the organization helping RS’s birth family, told LifeSiteNews this morning that the family has run out of options to save their son, brother and uncle. 

“Nothing can be done legally, realistically,” he said. 

However, the Polish government has taken an interest in the case, and has so far supported the family’s applications to the European Court of Human Rights. Now RS's birth family's “last hope” is that Poland will take her own, independent, case against the U.K. government to the ECHR, Stroilov said.  

Stroilov believes that Poland suing the United Kingdom to save RS’s life is indeed a legal possibility. 

He is not alone in that belief. James Bogle, British barrister and trial attorney, told LifeSiteNews that "there is a possibility that the Polish government could, through the British Foreign Office, write to the hospital trust concerned insisting that they protect the human rights of RS, a Polish citizen, and so agree not to withdraw his nutrition and hydration.” 

“If the hospital declines, then that decision of the hospital could possibly be the subject of an application before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg," he continued. 

“Whether the European Court would grant permission for such an appeal is open to question, given that it has already refused a similar permission application from the family of RS. On the other hand, given that this is an application by a government, the European Court might possibly view the application more favourably."

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Causing death by dehydration or starvation, if deemed in a comatose patient’s best interests, is no longer legally considered euthanasia in the United Kingdom. In the U.K. giving a patient food and water through a tube has been deemed “medical treatment” since the Airedale NHS Trust v Bland [1993] case in the House of Lords.  On December 15, Mr Justice Cohen sided with the NHS Trust who applied for permission to discontinue RS’s life-sustaining treatment, in part because his wife said that he would not want to be a “burden” on her and their children. RS’s birth family had testified, however, that RS was a devout Catholic opposed to both abortion and euthanasia. He had explicitly objected to courts deciding, against the wishes of Alfie Evans’ parents, that the 23-month-old child should die.

However, another judge stayed the order a few days later when RS’s birth family indicated that they would appeal the decision. RS was once again given nourishment and water through tubes. On December 23, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Jackson denied the appeal, and on Christmas Eve, RS was denied food and water. 

But there was another stay of the order. On December 28, after the family with the Polish government applied to the ECHR on behalf of RS’s right to life, he was again given nutrition and hydration. On December 31, Mr Justice Cohen stated that his December 15 order could be stayed until January 7, in light of a third application before the ECHR. He rejected an application by the Polish government and RS’s birth family to have RS airlifted to Poland for continued care. One of his concerns was that RS might die in transit.

RS suffered serious brain damage after a heart attack he suffered on November 6, 2020 and was in a coma for weeks. Although doctors testified at the end of 2020 that he seemed to be moving from a coma to a vegetative state, he can breathe unassisted by a ventilator. His doctors have also testified that RS could live five years or more, never improving beyond a minimally conscious state, if he continues to be given what in Britain is called “clinically assisted nutrition and hydration” or CANH. A neurologist chosen by the family testified that, based on video evidence, he believed that RS’s condition was improving. However, Dr. Pullicino’s testimony was rejected by the court. 

RS’s mother has stated that she is “devastated” that people in England want her son to die of dehydration. 

“I am devastated that the British authorities have decided to dehydrate my son to death,” she stated through the Christian Legal Centre.  

“I want to take my son back to his own country, where I would be allowed to care for him. What the British authorities are trying to do to my son is euthanasia by the back door.”

RS’s mother has also begged the Polish government to “redouble their efforts” in saving her son from a death Polish Catholics consider passive euthanasia. 

“I am grateful to the Polish government for everything it has already done, and implore them to redouble their efforts, honoring their constitutional duties to protect the sanctity of life and to protect Polish citizens everywhere in the world,” she stated. 

“I feel so helpless in this situation. The only thing I can now do is pray for a miracle.”  

RS’s case became increasingly well-known in his native Poland through several different members of the conservative and Catholic press and also in Britain, through both the Polish-British and English language press. 


  dehydration, echr, euthanasia, rs case, starvation

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