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High Court to rule on patient in near vegetative state

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7068.1280a (Published 23 November 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1280

A health authority is to ask the High Court to allow the withdrawal of feeding from a severely brain damaged road accident victim who is not in a permanent vegetative state.

The case of a woman in whom “near permanent vegetative state” has been diagnosed is expected to provoke controversy, as the health authority is the first to seek approval for the withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration from a patient who is not in a vegetative state. Unlike vegetative patients, who have only reflex eye movements, the woman is able to track an object with her eyes.

James Munby, the QC regularly briefed by the Official Solicitor to represent patients' interests, revealed the pending case last week at a conference in London on the permanent vegetative state, jointly sponsored by the BMA, the Official Solicitor's office, …

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