Ian Brownhill, 'Protester or patient: Can the law determine in food refusal cases?'

Event date
31 May 2024
Event time
11:30 - 13:00
Oxford week
TT 6
Law Faculty - Seminar Room D

Ian Brownhill is a renowned advocate from 39 Essex Chambers and one of the country’s leading specialists in mental capacity and medical treatment. Outside of his expertise in the Court of Protection, Mr Brownhill advises and acts in safeguarding cases in respect of both adults and children. Mr Brownhill has provided an overview of his discussion:


In respect of voluntary stopping eating and drinking, the law of England and Wales appears clear:  if a patient has the capacity to make decisions as to whether to take food and drink, he is entitled to starve himself to death if he so chooses (as per Baker J in the Dr A case). 

This presentation will focus on tensions between the principles of autonomy and respecting life: 

  1. How can the law differentiate between a patient on hunger strike due to a political belief or one experiencing a delusional disorder? 

  2. What does the law do when a patient refuses, or is unable, to explain their reason for stopping eating and drinking? 

  3. All patients will, at some stage, lose the mental capacity to make decisions as to their hydration and nutrition before their death. Does the Mental Capacity Act 2005 sufficiently protect the patient’s entitlement to starve themselves? 

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