The widow who fought for a road crash cop’s right to die has won a battle to stop other families going through the same agony.
Lindsey Briggs endured 10 months of hell trying to persuade judges to allow severely brain-
damaged husband Paul’s life support to be withdrawn.
The law then stated only a court could make that decision if the patient was unable to do so – and if there were no record of his or her advance wishes.
Now new guidelines mean more emphasis will be placed on what the family feels their loved one would have wanted if medics also agree treatment should stop.
Speaking after her first Christmas without 43-year-old Paul, Lindsey, 41 – who now helps other young widows, said: “Nobody wants their loved one to die but this will make things easier for others.Read More
- Brain damaged cop Paul Briggs dies after wife fought for his right to choose to die
“Not having Paul here is horrible. But thankfully, cases like ours have changed things. There is more emphasis now on what that person would want.”
Traffic cop Paul was left in a vegetative state after novice driver Chelsea Rowe crashed into him while he was on duty in July 2015.
Heartbroken Lindsey argued his clinically assisted nutrition and hydration while in a coma should be withdrawn, insisting her husband of 16 years would never have wanted to be kept alive in such a state. But Paul had never recorded his wishes – and doctors argued treatment should continue.Read More
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At the time, the 2005 Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice ruled only the Court of Protection could decide on withdrawing treatment if the patient was in a permanently vegetative state or if there were doubts over further treatment being in the patient’s interest.
Lindsey had to take her lengthy battle to the Supreme Court of Justice before judges ruled in her favour, and allowed Paul to die.
Now the sole parent to their six-year-old daughter Ella, she said: “We were in limbo this time last year. There is comfort now in knowing we did need to go down the legal route – not just for Paul, but for other people.”
Speaking at her home in Wirral, Merseyside, Lindsey, 41, said she believes she’ll never find love again.
“I’m not looking for a relationship. I think I’ll always be alone,” she said. “I met Paul when I was young and never lived alone before that.
“It’s time to find myself and be there for other people. When you are widowed young, it’s like a bomb’s gone off.
“You’re in a life you never expected, but have to make the most of a bad situation.”
She says the legal battle “prolonged the turmoil for Paul and everyone who cared about him”.
But the British Medical Association’s new ethics, published this month, mean more emphasis will now be placed on honouring patients’ wishes. It states: “This involves seeking to understand what decision the patient would have made for themselves if the patient had retained capacity.”
Doctors will now no longer need to seek court approval to withdraw clinically assisted nutrition and hydration if loved ones and medics are in agreement. Paul’s is one of three “recent cases” cited as reasons for the change.
The new guidelines would not have stopped the Briggs case going to court as doctors opposed Lindsey. But she said: “I’m delighted legal changes are happening for the better.” She is now in contact with families in a similar heartbreaking positions who saw coverage of her case. “I can listen and offer support from a place of experience,” says Lindsey. After Paul’s death, the part-time medical administrator became a volunteer at charity Widowed and Young which organises meetings and events for widows and widowers under 50.
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Lindsey said: “I joined for Ella. I wanted her to meet other children who’d also suffered loss. But it has really helped me too.”
She reveals she cannot forgive Chelsea Rowe, who served six months of a 12-month sentence after crashing into Gulf war veteran Paul on his motorbike.
“She never apologised. I don’t think Paul would forgive her either,” said Lindsey. “He was left in a total state of suffering for so long. I barely forgive myself, even though I know there’s nothing more I could have done for him.”
Now the mum is focused on the future, adding: “I’ll keep doing what I can to help others.”