The case of five-year-old cancer patient Ashya King has raised profoundly sensitive questions in international courtrooms and households across the country.
Why does the court get a say?
Were the parents wrong to reject treatment advised by their NHS hospital?
At what point do citizens lose the autonomy to make decisions on behalf of themselves and their loved ones?
The uncomfortable truth is that the line between individual rights and the protection of the rule law can be blurred indeed.
Ashya’s family, the police and the courts all simply wanted the best possible outcome for Ashya.
The courts frequently deal with acutely difficult cases like this.
Take the notorious case of the al-Saffar family who were murdered in the French Alps. The two surviving children had to go into foster care while their relatives fought to take on legal responsibility for them. They won in the end. There is no reason to believe the state had any objections whatsoever. However, any potential guardian had to prove their case in the interests of child protection.
It is a common dilemma. Without provisions in place, dementia patients can lose their right to choose even if trustworthy relatives are intimately aware of their preferences. Children can be taken into care and mental health patients can lose their autonomy.
Holistic financial planning can help clients take control of some important affairs:
1) While you are of sound mind you can put in place a Legal Power of Attorney to make decisions for you should you ever lose mental capacity through illness or injury. This can include paying school fees, debts and mortgage payments or medical decisions including life support.
2) Appointing Legal Guardians can ensure that children are placed with trusted individuals and not in state care.
3) Everyone should have a Will. Trusts can protect assets for loved ones.