Intended for healthcare professionals


Life support can be removed without courts if doctors and families agree

BMJ 2018; 362 doi: (Published 30 July 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3332
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. The BMJ

Doctors will no longer need to seek court approval to withdraw artificial feeding and hydration from all patients in a permanent vegetative or minimally conscious state, the UK Supreme Court has ruled in a landmark judgment.1

Five justices in the UK’s highest court concluded unanimously that court applications weren’t needed where families and doctors agreed that withdrawal would be in the patient’s best interests.

The decision will provide clarity for doctors looking after the thousands of patients with what are now characterised as “prolonged disorders of consciousness” who are being kept alive by clinically assisted nutrition and hydration.

Lady Justice Black, giving judgment on behalf of the court, said neither the common law nor European human rights law required every case to go to court.

The case concerned …

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