Report No. 196
3. Issac Messiha vs. South East Health = 2004 NSW SC 1061 (11th Nov 2004 (Howie J).
This case led to a result contrary to the one in Northridge. The opinion of the doctors was to withdraw treatment (and give only palliatives) on the ground that the patient was PVS and not likely to revive, was accepted by the Court. The Court accepted this view and the application on behalf of the patient was rejected.
Mr. Messiha was admitted in ICU on 17th October, 2004. He had suffered an asystolic cardiac arrest: that is, his heart had completely stopped beating, depriving his body, including his brain, of the supply of oxygen. As a result, since his admission, he has been unconscious and apparently in deep coma. Dr. Mrs. Jacques, Director of the Unit of the respondent was of the view that the current treatment regime of the patient should cease and that he should be removed from the Unit and placed under palliative care.
She accepts that withdrawing treatment in the Unit will have the effect of reducing life expectancy from possibly weeks to possibly days. The members of the family of the patient approached the Court to restrain Dr. Jacques and other medical staff at the hospital from altering the patient's treatment. The family believed that the patient would improve if the treatment was continued and he would live for a longer time.
The learned Judge held, following Northridge that the Court has parens patria jurisdiction in such cases.
After considering the views of Dr. Jacques and other experts, the Court held that there was no eye-movement observed and that the present state was that the patient (a) was mechanically ventilated through a tube in his mouth and passing down his trachea, (b) being fed and hydrated through a tube in his mouth and through his arm, (c) was not able to pass urine artificially, (d) incontinent of faeces, (e) was unable to swallow his own saliva requiring suctioning of his mouth, nose and throat and (f) his eyes are taped down in order to prevent corneal ulcers.
The medical evidence was unanimous that there was no real prospect of recovery. The Court was satisfied that there was no medical evidence to say that he was not in a PVS state. The application by family members to restrain the doctors from withdrawing medical treatment was rejected.