Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Do not kill M", Court siad .. " Let her die", Family said

The Court of Protection will rule later on whether a brain-damaged woman should be allowed to die, in what is being seen as a landmark case.

The woman, who is 51 and can be referred to only as M, is in what is known as a "minimally conscious state".

Her family say she is in pain and that artificial feeding and hydration should be withdrawn.

The Official Solicitor has strongly opposed the application, arguing that she may be able to communicate.

M became severely brain damaged eight-and-a-half years ago. She is unable to talk and had been thought to be in a vegetative state, with no awareness or consciousness of her surroundings.

However subsequent tests indicated that she is in a "minimally conscious state" - on the edge of awareness.

She is now being looked after in a care home in the north of England.

In a preliminary ruling on the case, Mr Justice Baker said the tragedy had had a "devastating impact", not only on M, but on her family, including her mother, sister and partner.

Those family members had "come to a clear view that M would not wish to continue living in her current state and that it is not in her interests to do so".
'Showed awareness'

They believe that M is suffering and experiences pain. They are seeking a legal declaration that she lacks capacity to make decisions over her future treatment, and that it is not in her interests for artificial nutrition and hydration to be provided.

They want an order allowing all those looking after her to stop all "life-sustaining treatment", and to concentrate instead on minimising her distress and protecting her dignity until she dies.

The Official Solicitor, a lawyer appointed to represent M, opposes the application, arguing that M could respond to touch, "showed awareness" and may be able to communicate using a switch.

Mr Justice Baker said the case "potentially raises issues of the utmost importance". He said this was the first time the court had been asked "to approve the withholding of nutrition from a patient whose consciousness is above that of the vegetative state".

In 1993 the House of Lords ruled that doctors need not keep someone alive if it was viewed that it was of no benefit to the patient. That case was crucial in determining that feeding tubes could be regarded as medical treatment.

Since 1993, a total of 43 patients in a persistent vegetative state, or PVS, have died after a judge ordered that treatment could be withdrawn.

This case is different because M is minimally conscious.

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