Court Forces Cancer Patient To Have Surgery
Woman has phobia of hospitals, needles
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2010 4:00 AM CDT
"Learning disability coupled with needle or hospital-phobia in a patient with cancer is unusual but is a relatively routine matter for clinical ethics," a government doctor said.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – A court's decision to force a woman to have life-saving cancer surgery against her will has triggered a fierce debate on medical ethics in Britain. Doctors will be allowed to forcibly sedate the 55-year-old, who has learning difficulties and a phobia of hospitals and needles, in order to bring her to hospital and operate on her cancer of the uterus. The judge in the case ruled that the woman was incapable of making a rational decision about her care or of fully understanding the consequences of not having surgery.

"The right to refuse treatment is a cornerstone of human rights and medical ethics, but so too is the duty of care," the chief of a disability rights organization tells the Telegraph. "The head states that saving the woman's life is right; the heart recoils at the thought of deceiving and compelling her into undergoing a procedure which she does not want." Forcing the woman to have surgery is probably justifiable in this case, she says, but the case shouldn't be allowed to set a precedent.