Rejection Of Right To Die Case 'Important'
PA -- A High Court judge has ruled that a brain-damaged, minimally conscious woman should not be allowed to die in a decision described as "very important" by lawyers.
Mr Justice Baker said an English court had never before been asked to consider whether life-supporting treatment should be withdrawn from a patient who was not in a persistent vegetative state but was minimally conscious.
The judge, who heard legal argument during a Court of Protection hearing in London in July, had described the case as unique and said it raised "very important issues of principle".
Relatives wanted life-supporting treatment withdrawn and said the woman, who turned 52 earlier this month and lives in a care home in the north of England, would not want to live "a life dependent on others".
But a lawyer appointed by the High Court to represent the woman, referred to as M in court, opposed the relatives' application for nutrition to be withdrawn, arguing that she was "otherwise clinically stable".
The local health authority responsible for commissioning her care also opposed the relatives' application and said the woman's life was "not without positive elements".
Mr Justice Baker said: "The factor which does carry substantial weight, in my judgment, is the preservation of life."
He added: "I find that she does have some positive experiences and importantly that there is a reasonable prospect that those experiences can be extended by a planned programme of increased stimulation." The judge said all parties agreed that an existing "do not resuscitate" order should continue.
Lawyer Yogi Amin, a partner with law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented M's family, said after the hearing: "The family learned of the judge's decision yesterday and were deeply disappointed." He said the family's lawyers were considering an appeal.
He added: "This is a very important judgment. The law has been clarified and, going forward, in all such cases of patients who are in a minimally conscious state, the High Court does now have the power to decide on whether it is in that patient's best interests for treatment to continue, or whether the patient should be allowed to die naturally, with dignity."