25 March 2002
MISS "B" JUDGEMENT OF THE HIGH COURT
The judgement that miss "B" has the capacity to refuse treatment even if her life depends upon it, does not change the law. It is wrongly being represented in some sections of the media and by the proponents of euthanasia as a "right to die" decision. The use of other slogans such as "death with dignity" are singularly inappropriate and only serve to obscure the reality of what is involved.
There is no right to die in English law nor it is claimed by the Government's legal representatives , in European law. That question is now before the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg.
The Medical Ethics Alliance notes that even patients with capacity may change their minds more than once when faced with an actual decision. Patients should be treated in accordance with their best interests until a settled, free and informed decision can be made.
It also recognises that members of the medical and nursing team may not wish to be involved and in conscience be unable, to take a step with lethal consequences.
This judgement should not be used to provide Health Authorities or others with an excuse to avoid expensive but clinically indicated rehabilitation. Doctors in particular should be aware of the vulnerability of patients at such times. The vast majority of them will want to go on living.