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Patient death after swallowing anti-freeze prompts call for law change

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Calls have been made for a law change after it emerged a woman suffering from depression died when paramedics respected her request to not be treated after she swallowed anti-freeze.

Kerrie Wooltorton left a note asking to be made comfortable in hospital but not to be treated. Discussions were held by staff at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital over the case, but it was decided in order to comply with the law, they had to respect the 26-year-old’s wishes.

Laws introduced under the 2005 Mental Capacity Act mean someone can leave a living will, or advance directive, allowing them to refuse treatment.

They are usually associated with patients who have a terminal illness.

“We think that it is very tragic indeed and we made a warning before the legislation went through that this exact thing would happen,” said ProLife Alliance chairman Dominica Roberts.

Details of the case emerged at an inquest which opened two years ago and concluded on this week.

Greater Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong recorded a narrative verdict that did not blame the hospital for her death.

“She had capacity to consent to treatment which, it is more likely than not, would have prevented her death,” said Mr Armstrong. “She refused such treatment in full knowledge of the consequences and died as a result.”

A spokesman for Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital added: “She was aware of what she was doing and the law is clear in such cases.”

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