Cancer Surgery on Autistic Man has Happy Outcome

An autistic man, who fiercely objected to cancer surgery although it was required to give him the best chance of survival, successfully underwent the operation after his expressed wishes were overruled by the Court of Protection.

The man, aged 65, had always lacked the mental capacity to make decisions for himself and was looked after in a care home. Experts were unanimous in their view that he needed a tumour removed from his breast; however, he was adamant that he did not have cancer and did not want to undergo an operation.

In opening the way for surgeons to operate, the Court noted that his devoted sister was ‘strongly supportive’ of the procedure. However, she had also said that he was ‘terrified’ of going under the knife and would probably ‘go berserk’ if told that he was to undergo surgery, to which was ‘very resistant indeed’.

The Court found that it was in the man’s best interests for the operation to go ahead and also authorised doctors to covertly sedate him before taking him to hospital. However, it went on to direct that, before he was anaesthetised, the man should be told in clear and sensitive terms what was about to happen to him. Physical restraint was also authorised but only to the minimum extent necessary.

Following the Court’s decision, the operation had been successfully performed. The man had remained calm throughout the procedure, was recovering well and, after coming round from the anaesthetic, had told medics, “That was simple, wasn’t it?”