Supreme Court: Families Can Decide to Starve Brain Damaged Patients to Death


(SPUC) – The Supreme Court has ruled that doctors can withdraw food and fluid from brain-damaged patients without going to court – if the patient’s family are in agreement.

The Care not Killing (CNK) Alliance, of which SPUC is a key member, has expressed concern and disappointment that a key safeguard has been removed from vulnerable patients.

The ruling will effect up to 24,000 patients with permanent vegetative state (PVS) and minimally conscious state (MCS), meaning they can now be effectively starved and dehydrated to death if the medical staff and relatives agree that this is in their ‘best interests’.

People in these states can breathe without ventilators, but need to have food and fluids by tube (clinically assisted nutrition and hydration or CANH). Until last year, all requests to remove CANH had to go before the Court of Protection.

Now, the Supreme Court has upheld an earlier ruling by the High Court that where relatives and medical staff agree that withdrawal of CANH is in the patient’s ‘best interests’, the Court of Protection need not be involved. CONTINUE