13:37, January 27 417 0 theguardian.com

2020-01-27 13:37:03
Elderly abuse suspect could be allowed to starve himself to death, judge says

An elderly man who stopped eating after being accused of historical child sexual abuse could be allowed to starve himself to death, a judge has said.

The man, in his late 80s, is at the centre of litigation in the court of protection, where issues relating to people who may lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered.

Mr Justice Hayden has been asked to decide whether the man should be fed through a tube against his will to keep him alive.

At a hearing in London on Monday, the judge was told that hospital medics were giving the man water on the basis that he lacked the mental capacity to make decisions about eating and drinking.

Hayden said there was evidence that the man did have the mental capacity to make such decisions.

He said: “If he wants to starve himself to death, and that is his view, then that is his entitlement. The court of protection is not here simply to protect people from outcomes that we don’t like. It is also here to protect their autonomy.”

The judge has been told the man went on hunger strike after learning that police had begun an investigation into allegations of historical child sex abuse. There are a number of alleged victims, including the man’s daughter.

Hayden is due to oversee another hearing on Wednesday. He said the man, who lives in a care home in the south-west of England, could not be identified in media reports of the case.

The judge heard submissions from lawyers representing the man and those representing the council with responsibility for the man’s care.

Lawyers representing the man initially launched litigation after he said he wanted to leave a care facility and return home. The dispute relating to his hunger strike arose later.