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Brain-damaged woman's family loses right to die case

Family loses bid to pull life support for brain-damaged British woman kept alive on tube since 2003
Source - NY Daily News
BY LARRY MCSHANE
Wednesday, September 28th 2011, 12:49 PM


A brain-damaged British woman kept alive by feeding tube since 2003 must stay on life support despite her family's wishes to end her sad existence, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The landmark decision in the case of a 52-year-old woman identified as "M" marked the first time that an English judge was asked to rule on pulling life support from someone considered minimally conscious.

Typically, the end of life support comes when the victim falls into a persistent vegetative state.

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

"M" was on a family skiing holiday in 2003 when she was found in semi-coherent condition by her partner. Although she was rushed to the hospital, "M" slipped into a coma and was diagnosed with viral encephalitis.

The disease caused extensive, untreatable brain damage. She was put on a feeding tube in April 2003, and has remained on the life-support device ever since.

The ruling came as a major disappointment to her family, said their attorney, Yogi Amin.

"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best for her, and it has been desperately difficult for them to make this application to the court for treatment to be withdrawn," Amin said after the High Court ruling.

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

But the judge found the brain-damaged woman had "some positive experiences" since falling into her irreversible condition - even as he anticipated the reaction to his ruling.

"After pursuing this litigation for years, I know that (the family) will be extremely disappointed and probably distressed by my decision," the judge ruled.

Her family first raised the question of ending her treatment in 2007, saying they were convinced "M" would not want a life prolonged by such extreme measures.

"There can be no question that the last eight years have been heartbreaking for them all," said Amin.



Brain-damaged woman's family loses right to die case
Source - AFP
By LEON NEAL | AFP – 14 hours ago

A judge has ruled that a brain-damaged, minimally conscious woman should not be allowed to die, in a landmark case about the right to life-supporting treatment.

High Court judge Scott Baker said it was the first time an English court had been asked to consider whether such treatment should be withdrawn from a patient who was not in a persistent vegetative state but was minimally conscious.

The relatives of the patient, referred to only as M, had argued that she would not have wanted to live in her current condition and applied to the court asking for her food and water to be withdrawn.

Their lawyers argued that, eight years after suffering profound brain damage from viral encephalitis, she had shown no evidence of improvement.

The 52-year-old, who lives in a care home in northern England, is in a minimally conscious state -- just above a persistent vegetative state.

The lawyers for M's relatives said she was unable to consistently communicate or interact with her environment or with others, could not care for herself and suffered pain, distress and discomfort.

But a court-appointed lawyer representing the patient had argued against the relatives' application, saying that she was "otherwise clinically stable".

The local health authority also opposed the move.

In his ruling, Baker said: "The factor which does carry substantial weight, in my judgment, is the preservation of life."

"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," he added.

The judge said all parties agreed that an existing "do not resuscitate" order should continue.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented M's relatives, said they were "deeply disappointed" but it was "very important" in clarifying that the High Court did have the power to decide on treatment for minimally conscious patients.

They added that the past eight years had been "heartbreaking" for M's family.

"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 said.



So, you have to go to court in the UK to have these decisions made? Or is it because there was no living will/health care proxy kind of thing in place so the patient was given a legal guardian/solicitor?
Tags: ethics, health, health care, uk
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