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Landmark High Court ruling maintains legal protection for vulnerable people

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The Christian Medical Fellowship has welcomed a landmark ruling by a High Court Judge that a brain-damaged woman should not have her life ended.

Known as ‘M’ the 52 year old is in what is known as a ‘Minimally Conscious State’, meaning that she does have some degree of awareness; in effect she is in the next level up from permanent vegetative state (PVS). She is not on a ventilator, but as she cannot eat or drink she does receive food and water through a thin feeding tube.

Until the case of M, judges had considered the withdrawal of feeding tubes only in cases of patients who were in a vegetative state, where they had no awareness.

During proceedings the family argued M was in pain and that artificial feeding and hydration should be withdrawn. Staff caring for her disagreed.

The Official Solicitor and the health authority responsible for her care also opposed the application.

In giving his judgment, Mr Justice Baker of the Court of Protection ruled that artificial nutrition and hydration should not be withdrawn in the case of M.

Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship said, ‘This is a wise and sensible decision which upholds the law and maintains present levels of legal protection for severely brain-damaged people.

‘This woman was not imminently dying and did have some degree of awareness. A decision to remove artificial nutrition and hydration from her with the explicit intention of ending her life would have crossed an important ethical boundary and placed the lives of other disabled people at risk.

‘Any weakening of the law in this area would endanger the lives of vulnerable people and give encouragement to those who have an emotional or financial interest in their deaths. We welcome the clear signal that Justice Baker has given today’.

Posted by Catherine Butcher
CMF Head of Communications

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