Monday, August 01, 2011

Nurses speak out against family in right-to-die case

By Tom Peck Tuesday, The Independent 26 July 2011

A "profoundly" brain-damaged woman whose relatives say should be allowed to die responds to music and conversation and tries to communicate, according to a nurse in charge of her team of carers.

The woman's relatives want her "artificial nutrition and hydration" withdrawn, but a lawyer appointed by the Court of Protection to represent her interests opposes the application, arguing she is "otherwise clinically stable" and "has signs of awareness".

The case is thought to be the first time a judge has been asked to rule on whether life-supporting treatment should be withdrawn from a person who is not in a persistent vegetative state but is "minimally conscious".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 woman cannot be named for legal reasons. The nurse's views were outlined in a written witness statement, heard by the High Court Judge Mr Justice Baker yesterday.

In the statement, the nurse – who also cannot be named – says she fears the woman's relatives do not "fully understand" how "unpleasant" withdrawing treatment might be.

Mr Justice Baker says the case is "unique" and it raises "very important issues of principle". He has heard how the woman suffered "profound brain damage" in early 2003 after being diagnosed with viral encephalitis.

The woman was in a coma for several weeks and had initially been thought to be in a persistent vegetative state. But doctors later concluded that she was in fact minimally conscious.


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