An ICB & RN & TN [2022] EWCOP 41

This case concerns RN, a 22-year-old man, who suffers from a severe learning disability, as well as Partial Trisomy 13, and a heart condition, Tetralogy of Fallot, repaired in 2001. The Partial Trisomy 13 is a chromosomal irregularity that has had a significant effect on RN’s cognitive development. RN lives with his mother, TN, who is his carer.

RN is believed to lack capacity to make a decision about whether to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. His GP is of the opinion that he should receive the vaccine because of the risk posed to him should he catch the virus. His mother believes that the risks are limited, particularly as he has already had the virus, whereas the risks posed by the vaccine are unknown.

The court was therefore asked to decide (1) whether RN lacked capacity to make the decision, and (2) if he does lack capacity, whether it is in his best interests to receive the vaccine.

His Honour Judge Burrows heard evidence from Dr A, Consultant Cardiologist and Dr B, GP, both of whom were of the opinion that RN should receive the vaccine. Evidence was also received from TN, mostly on the effects of the vaccine and natural immunity in those who have been infected.

There was no dispute that RN lacked capacity to make the decision for himself. With regard to whether it is in his best interests to receive the vaccine, His Honour Judge Burrows considered the case law on this subject, in particular the principles set out by Poole, J. in North Yorkshire CCG v E & Others [2022] EWCOP 15, and he concluded that it is in RN’s best interests to receive the vaccine. At [50] he states :

"My role is to make a best interests evaluation. I cannot escape the simple reality that the vaccine is likely to reduce RN’s risk of developing a serious infection and dying of it. In the absence of any evidence that he is placed more at risk from having the vaccine than not having it- and there is none- I consider it clearly in his best interests to receive it."

The full judgement can be read here

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