After a ‘rich and happy’ life, an elderly stroke victim who was languishing in hospital, somewhere between a ‘vegetative’ or ‘minimally aware’ state, has been granted the right to die with dignity by a High Court judge.
The ‘very frail’ woman, in her late eighties, was unable to speak or eat normally. She was asleep most of the time and one medical expert had described her as being in ‘pre-terminal hibernation’. Doctors treating her were unanimous in their views that all that could now be done for her was to ease her passing.
Following an application by an NHS Trust, the judge found that the woman lacked capacity to make decisions about her own treatment. Although she would continue to be hydrated, he granted permission to treating doctors to abandon attempts to artificially feed her. Medics would also be acting lawfully if they refrained from resuscitating her if she suffered a cardiac or respiratory arrest.
Feeding her through a tube would probably cause her more harm than good and attempts at CPR, or other forms of resuscitation might result in serious, or even fatal, injury. Experts were agreed that any such bid to save her life would be ‘futile, burdensome and unpleasant’. The judge said that the woman was clearly ‘in the terminal phase of her life’ and was very unlikely to make any recovery or regain any ‘meaningful quality of life’.
Paying tribute to the care shown by the woman’s husband, daughter and son-in-law, the judge said, “I do not for one moment underestimate their upset at seeing her life ebb away…from the little I know, she has obviously had a rich and happy life, valuing, and being valued by, her loving family.”