Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The preservation of life

Today there was some good news from the High Court. The family of Patient 'M', who's in a Minimally Conscious State, were denied permission to order her life support (food and water) to be turned off on the grounds that she would not want to "live a life dependent on others". There are thought to be thousands of people in a similar situation. It was an example of what could happen when families think they can second-guess their incapacitated relatives. However Mr Justice Baker ruled against the family, and I'd say in favour of the patient: "The factor which does carry substantial weight, in my judgement, is the preservation of life. Although not an absolute rule, the law regards the preservation of life as a fundamental principle." 

That's a principle worth maintaining against the tide. I'm glad it's been upheld. I expect there'll be moves to get the family to appeal, though I trust not. It's all very well to encourage people to write down their wishes about dying, as the family lawyer said after the verdict. It's long been known that apparently unconscious patients are more aware of their surroundings and conversations than we imagine. How awful to be aware of being slowly starved to death! That's not something such people will suggest you anticipate, will they? And when will they stop peddling the lie that a dependent life is not worth living?

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