Unbelievable. Where does government get the right to enforce on people like this?Doctors will be allowed forcibly to sedate the 55-year-old woman in her home and take her to hospital for surgery. She could be forced to remain on a ward afterwards.
The case has sparked an intense ethical and legal debate. Experts questioned whether lawyers and doctors should be able to override the wishes of patients and whether force was ever justified in providing medical care.
Treatment was ordered by Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division, in the Court of Protection, after surgeons at the woman's local hospital applied for permission to force the surgery on her. They argued that without it, advanced cancer of the uterus would kill her.
Sir Nicholas agreed because the woman, who has learning difficulties, was deemed incapable of making a rational decision about the operation.
She had previously agreed to surgery, only to change her mind and repeatedly refuse to turn up for medical appointments, claiming a phobia of hospitals and needles.
Last night Liz Sayce, chief executive of Radar, the disability network, said: "The right to refuse treatment is a cornerstone of human rights and medical ethics, but so too is the duty of care.
"The head states that saving the woman's life is right; the heart recoils at the thought of deceiving and compelling her into undergoing a procedure which she does not want."
She said it would be difficult to deny that the operation was in the woman's best interest but force would only be justified if it was established beyond doubt that the patient could not comprehend that without it she would die.
"Society, however, must be careful to treat every case individually, and ensure that this case provides no precedent for overriding the consent of people with learning disabilities in future." Yvonne Hossack, a solicitor who campaigns for elderly and vulnerable people, said: "It seems to me that – to force an operation on someone against their will – it's questionable whether it's in their best interests. Many people who have cancer do make the choice that they don't want invasive surgery."
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 allows patients to specify in advance the circumstances under which they do not wish to receive further treatment, in legally-binding documents known as "living wills".
The same law also allows the Court of Protection – a little-known body that previously only dealt with finances – to decide on the "best interests" of those who lack mental capacity and rule on their welfare and medical treatment.