A court has ordered that an 80-year-old care home resident should receive the coronavirus vaccine despite her son objecting.
The woman, known only as Mrs E in court papers, has dementia and was diagnosed with schizophrenia around 20 years ago. She has lived in a London care home since March last year.
On 8 January the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham informed Mrs E's family that she was to be offered a COVID-19 vaccination on 11 January. However, W, Mrs E's son, objected by email.
As a result of the objection, Mrs E was not vaccinated and her representatives in the care home urgently sought a declaration - under section 15 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 - to the effect that it would be lawful and in Mrs E's best interests to receive the vaccine at the next possible date.
In the weeks following the son’s objections a number of confirmed COVID cases were reported in the Care Home.
“In determining what would be in Mrs E's best interests, I am required to consider, so far as is reasonably ascertainable, her past and present wishes and feelings, the beliefs and values that would be likely to influence her decision if she had capacity, and any other factors she would be likely to take into account if she were able to do so,” said the judge.
“Mrs E had, prior to her diagnosis of dementia, willingly received the influenza vaccine and is also recorded as receiving a vaccination for swine flu in 2009. I consider the fact that, when she had capacity, Mrs E chose to be vaccinated in line with public health advice, to be relevant to my assessment of what she would choose in relation to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine today.”
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He continued that “while Mrs E lacks the capacity to consent to receiving the vaccine, she has articulated a degree of trust in the views of the health professionals who care for her by saying that she wanted ‘whatever is best for me’”.
The court heard how Mrs E’s son is “deeply sceptical about the efficacy of the vaccine, the speed at which it was authorised, whether it has been adequately tested on the cohort to which his mother belongs, and, importantly, whether his mother's true wishes and feelings have been canvassed”.
However, Justice Hayden said that the circumstances surrounding Mrs E - taking into account her age, residence, diagnosis of diabetes and lack of understanding - meant “her vulnerability to becoming seriously ill with, or dying from, Covid-19” was high, so receiving the vaccine was in her best interests.
The judge ruled: “It is a fact that Mrs E lives in a country which has one of the highest death rates per capita, due to COVID-19, in the world.
“By virtue of her vulnerabilities, the prospects for her if she contracts the virus are not propitious; it is a risk of death, and it is required to be confronted as such. The vaccination reduces that risk dramatically and I have no hesitation in concluding that it is in her best interests to receive it.
“I would add that, in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak at the home, I consider that Mrs E should receive the vaccine as soon as practically possible.”
Last week the UK was revealed to be the most pro-vaccination country in the world, with 81% of people saying they would accept a coronavirus vaccine if offered.
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