A British High Court judge has ruled that an elderly woman in minimally conscious state should have artificial feeding withdrawn. Justice Anthony Hayden asserted that it would be in the woman’s “best interests” for nutrition to be discontinued.
The 72-year-old woman was admitted to hospital after a fall last November, and lapsed into a minimally conscious state following an acute haemorrhage from a brain aneurysm.
She had been on life-support for months, and doctors and family were unable to agree about whether artificial feeding should be continued. Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust recently applied to the Court of Protection for a ruling that continuing the feeding was in her best interests.
But Justice Hayden ruled in favour of the woman’s daughter (who opposed feeding), saying that there was “clear and compelling” evidence that the woman would not have wanted life support to continue. The woman’s daughter said that had previously expressed a wish not to be kept alive if severely handicapped, especially if mental function was affected severely. Evidence in the case included an email sent by the woman in 2013 in which expressed the desire not to be kept alive if she found herself incapacitated.
The case follows a landmark ruling in September that clinically assisted feeding and hydration may be withdrawn from patients in a persistent vegetative or minimally conscious state without going to court, where doctors and families agree.
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