There was a dramatic new twist today in the case of a Muslim man said to be in a persistent vegetative state who doctors have indicated should not receive life-saving treatment if his condition deteriorates.
A QC for the family of "Mr L" from Greater Manchester told a High Court judge on Thursday that new video evidence has led an independent expert in neurology to conclude that he is "no longer in a persistent vegetative state".
The announcement came as the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which is responsible for the 55-year-old brain-damaged man's care, sought a declaration that it would not be in Mr L's best interests to offer him ventilation or resuscitation if there is "a life-threatening event".
The clinicians say Mr L would have "minimal prospects of improving neurological function" and no "meaningful quality of life" if life-prolonging treatment were given.
The family of Mr L are fighting the application and have insisted they have seen signs that he is not in a vegetative state.
The family also argues that, according to their religion, "life is sacred" and everything must be done to prolong life - including life-prolonging treatment, no matter the pain - "until God takes it away".
On Thursday morning Dr Peter Newman, independent expert in neurology, was due to give evidence which was expected to support the Trust's application for a declaration.
But Jenni Richards QC, for the family, told Mr Justice Moylan, that last night the family visited Mr L as normal but in the presence of a Trust doctor.
Although not a neurologist, the doctor produced overnight a witness statement in which he accepted there was a "closing of eyes and grimacing" when Mr L's eyes were cleaned.
Ms Richards said: "That video footage was viewed this morning by Dr Newman as well as by representatives of the family.
"On the basis of what he had seen on the video footage, Dr Newman's view, shared with all the parties, was that Mr L was no longer in a persistent vegetative state."
It was Dr Newman's position that he was now "most likely in a minimally conscious state", said Ms Richards.
This month, two doctors from Great Ormond Street reignited debate on the subject, with an article claiming that "deeply religious" parents hoping for a miracle cure for their sick children are causing "needless suffering" by prolonging aggressive medical treatment.
Dr Joe Brierley, Dr Andy Petros and the hospital’s main chaplain, the Rev Jim Linthicum argue that keeping a child on aggressive treatment or life support is a violation of the Human Rights Act.
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