Thursday, September 29, 2011

Care Not Killing welcomes verdict on right to die case

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Care Not Killing has welcomed the High Court ruling preventing a severely brain damaged woman’s family from withdrawing her food and fluids.

Relatives of the woman, referred in the courts only as “M”, had requested that her life supporting treatment be removed.

The family claimed that the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had expressed a desire prior to her illness not to be kept alive artificially.

Mr Justice Baker sympathised with the family’s ordeal but concluded that her comments were of an informal nature and that her life should be preserved.

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“The factor which does carry substantial weight, in my judgement, is the preservation of life,” he said.

“I find that she does have some positive experiences and, more importantly, that there is a reasonable prospect that those experiences can be extended by a planned programme of increased stimulation.”

The woman was diagnosed with viral encephalitis in February 2003 after falling into a coma. Doctors initially believed she was in a permanent vegetative state but later found that she had minimal consciousness.

Dr Peter Saunders, Care Not Killing’s Campaign Director said the High Court ruling was a “wise and sensible” decision that “upholds the law and maintains present levels of legal protection for severely brain-damaged people”. 

‘This woman was not imminently dying and did have some degree of awareness,” he said.

“A decision to remove artificial nutrition and hydration from her with the explicit intention of ending her life would have crossed an important ethical boundary and placed the lives of other disabled people at risk.

“Any weakening of the law in this area would endanger the lives of vulnerable people and give encouragement to those who have an emotional or financial interest in their deaths.”



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