Editorials

Should cases of permanent vegetative state still go to court?

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7213.796 (Published 25 September 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:796

Britain should follow other countries and keep the courts for cases of dispute

  1. Bryan Jennett, professor emeritus
  1. Department of Neurosurgery, Institute of Neurological Sciences, Southern General Hospital, Glasgow G51 4TF

    Education and debate p 841

    Since the judgments in the Tony Bland case in 1993 it has been necessary to obtain high court approval before withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration from a patient in a permanent vegetative state. There have been 18 cases in England and one in Scotland, and in this issue Wade and Johnston review the medical and legal procedures involved (p 841).1 A consensus exists in many countries that such treatment withdrawal is medically, morally, and legally appropriate, but only in the United Kingdom is a court appearance required before this can be done.2 May it not be time to change this practice?

    In the Bland case the Master of the Rolls and four of the five judges in the House of Lords indicated that their recommendation that future cases should each come to court was to be an interim measure until a …

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