A judge in England decided a landmark case Wednesday, ruling that doctors may stop providing food and water to a mother suffering from multiple sclerosis.
The 68-year-old woman’s daughter said her mother was “minimally conscious” and “completely incapacitated,” according to The Daily Mail. The daughter petitioned the Court of Protection in London to have her mother’s food and water removed, saying that continuing the treatment was against her mother’s wishes. No one involved opposed the daughter’s application, reports state.
“My mum’s immaculate appearance, the importance she placed on maintaining her dignity and how she lived her life to its fullest is what formed her belief system; it’s what she lived for,” said the daughter, who is not named in reports. “All of that is gone now and very sadly my mum has suffered profound humiliation and indignity for so many years.”
Judge Justice Hayden made his decision after hearing from the daughter, other relatives, medical professionals involved in the mother’s care, independent medical experts and lawyers appointed to represent her, according to the report. He called his decision an “evolution in case law.”
Lawyer Mathiew Culverhouse, who was appointed to represent the daughter, said this is the first time the Court of Protection agreed to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from a “minimally conscious” patient. He called Hayden’s decision a “landmark” case in England.
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“While this is clearly distressing for her daughter, she is relieved that the court has been able to review and examine the expert medical evidence available and hear detailed legal argument before making a decision which will now end her mother’s suffering and indignity,” Culverhouse said.
After the judge’s decision, lawyers said arrangements would be made to withdraw the mother’s treatment in line with national clinical guidelines.
Ten years ago in America, a very similar case played out after Terri Schiavo’s former husband won a legal battle for the right to disconnect her feeding tube. After two weeks without food and water, Schiavo starved to death.
Doctors who examined Terri say she was not in a persistent vegetative state and that her condition could have been improved has she been given access to more medical care and rehabilitative treatment.