Judge refuses to let brain-damaged woman die

LONDON - A brain-damaged, minimally conscious woman should not be allowed to die, a High Court judge said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Wed 28 Sep 2011, 6:14 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:06 AM

The case is the first time that a judge has been asked to rule on whether life-supporting treatment should be withdrawn from a person who is not in a persistent vegetative state but is minimally conscious.

The judge, Justice Baker, said the woman, named only as “M” had “some positive experiences” and that there that was a reasonable prospect that they could be extended, the Press Association reported.

Lawyer Yogi Amin, speaking on behalf of M’s family, said they were deeply disappointed by the ruling.

“All parties agree that M’s family have demonstrated their love and devotion for her throughout this case, and that they brought this application to court in what they perceive to be her best interests,” he added.

“There can be no question that the past eight years have been extremely heart-breaking for them all.

“They love her dearly and want only what is best for her, and it has been desperately difficult for them to make this application to court for treatment to be withdrawn.

“They believe that M was clear that she would not have wanted to live in the condition that she is in.”

In 2003, when she was supposed to be leaving for a skiing holiday, M, then aged 43, was found by her partner in a drowsy and confused condition. She was taken to hospital where she soon fell into a coma.

She was found to have suffered viral encephalitis which left her with extensive and irreparable brain damage.

Ever since, she has been completely dependent on others for her care, and since April 2003 has been fed via a tube.

“The factor which does carry substantial weight, in my judgment, is the preservation of life,” the judge said. “Although not an absolute rule, the law regards the preservation of life as a fundamental principle.

“M does experience pain and discomfort, and her disability severely restricts what she can do,” he added.

“Having considered all the evidence, however, 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.”

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