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Ethics – ‘Brain damage’ safeguard removed

September 2018

The UK Supreme Court has removed an important safeguard from ‘brain damaged’ patients, making it easier to end their lives early. Until now, doctors and families had to go to court to take the ultimate step of withdrawing food and fluids from such patients. But the Supreme Court has decided that doctors can go ahead without going to court, as long as doctors and families both agree.

The decision has been met with criticism. Campaign Director of Care Not Killing, Dr Peter Saunders, commented: ‘This is concerning and disappointing news, because it removes an important safeguard from those without a voice.

‘Once we accept that death by dehydration is in some brain-damaged people’s “best interests” we are on a very slippery slope indeed.’ He added, ‘Taking these decisions away from the Court of Protection removes an important layer of legislative scrutiny and accountability and effectively weakens the law.’

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