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Right for woman in “minimally conscious state” to die denied

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In a landmark ruling of the Court of Protection, it has been decided that a woman who has been in a vegetative state for eight years, should still be kept alive. Her family had applied to the court asking that life sustaining treatment be withdrawn.

The lady, referred to as M, suffered “extensive and irreparable” brain damage after being struck with viral encephalitis. She now lives in a care home in Northern England. Unlike other similar cases where the person in question had been in a “persistent vegetative state” medical opinion was that she retained a “minimally conscious state”, meaning that she is to some extent aware of herself, can make limited movements and experience some sensations.

M’s sister, referred to as B, told the court “I know in my heart of hearts that she would not want to live like that. She cannot enjoy a drink, a cup of tea or anything. She has got no pleasures in life. Just a daily routine of being taken out of bed, put in a chair and put back in bed. Shower, doubly incontinent. It is just awful. It’s not life. It’s existence. And I know she would not want that. And it pains me every time I visit her.”

Mr Justice Baker noted that M had made no Lasting Power of Attorney expressing her wishes whilst she was capable of doing so and that just expressing her views verbally was not enough. He added ”the factor which does carry substantial weight, in my judgment, is the preservation of life. Although not an absolute rule, the law regards the preservation of life as a fundamental principle.”
The family may appeal the decision.

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Written by Andrew Hodges

October 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with , ,

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