London: Brain-Damaged Woman’s Family Loose Right-To-Die Case

28 Sep


The family of a brain-damaged, minimally-conscious woman on Wednesday lost their bid to withdraw vital treatment and allow her to die, in a landmark High Court case.

Relatives of the woman, referred to only as M, had appealed for life-supporting artificial feeding and hydration to be withdrawn, saying the 52-year-old would not want to live “a life dependent on others”.

But a lawyer appointed by the High Court to represent the woman opposed the application, arguing that she is “otherwise clinically stable”.

Mr Justice Baker described the High Court case as unique

The local health authority responsible for commissioning her care also opposed the family’s bid, claiming that the woman’s life was “not without positive elements”.

Mr Justice Baker, who heard legal argument during a Court of Protection hearing in London in July, described the case as unique and said it raised “very important issues of principle”.

The case is thought to be the first time that a judge has been asked to rule on whether life-supporting treatment should be withdrawn from a person who is minimally conscious, but not in a persistent vegetative state.

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, suffered profound brain damage in early 2003 after being diagnosed with viral encephalitis.

She was in a coma for several weeks and had been thought to be in a persistent vegetative state, but doctors later found she was in a minimally-conscious state — just above a persistent vegetative state.

(Editor’s note: In a similar case, some years back,¬†Ireland’s Supreme Court ruled that ‘the right to life‘ also implied the right to die a natural death.

The woman in question was indeed allowed to die in accordance with the wisdom of that ruling).


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