‘RS’, a middle-aged disabled Polish man, passed away after being deprived of fluids and nutrition after doctors petitioned for a court order to do so.

A middle-aged Polish citizen, referred to in court documents simply as ‘RS’, had been recovering from a heart attack in mid-November 2020 at University Hospital Plymouth NHS Trust. However, within just days of being admitted, doctors concluded that it was in RS’s best interests that life-sustaining care be withdrawn. At the end of November 2020, doctors applied to the Court of Protection to resolve a dispute between RS’s mother and other members of his family, both in Poland and the UK, who insisted that he be kept alive.

What followed were multiple court orders telling doctors to remove the tubes keeping RS alive, quickly followed by petitions by the family to reinstate nutrition and hydration. On several occasions between November 2020 and January 2021, feeding tubes were removed for days at a time before being replaced while doctors awaited a judge’s decision. Despite the ongoing legal battle, RS was showing promising signs of recovery, having been taken off ventilation and now only requiring a feeding tube.

Meanwhile, the Polish government sought to keep RS alive, arranging for him to be transported back to Poland to be cared for. Yet, the UK court ruled this would be cruel and could lead to his death; all while maintaining the view that it would be kinder to force him to die in a UK hospital.

RS sadly passed away on the afternoon of 26 January 2021.

Roger Kiska, one of the lawyers involved in RS’s case commented: “His cause of death may be recorded as having occurred as a result of prolonged dehydration, however that is merely the consequent cause of death. The actual and antecedent cause of death was the stroke of a judge’s pen decreeing that this man’s life had no more worth and that it would be in his best interests to die.

“RS was not just a set of initials – he was a father, a husband, a brother and uncle, a son, a proud Polish man and a devoted Catholic. Those who fought for him spent the last weeks often working throughout the nights, holidays and weekends to try and save his life. That alone proves just how wrong the courts were to imply that his life no longer had meaning.”

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