Motor neurone sufferer wins right to die
The High Court has passed a ruling this week permitting doctors to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from a paralysed man who communicated a wish to die by blinking.
The 64-year old father of two, referred to as XB, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease ten years ago, leaving him unable to write or speak.
In 2010 he allegedly indicated before his wife, a social worker and a physician, that he wanted to end his life by having his respiratory machine removed.
The High Court ruled that XB’s doctors could lawfully withdraw his life-support machine, as this would enable him to have a “peaceful end”.
Mrs Justice Theis, who passed the ruling, added: ‘I hope the next stage proceeds as well as can be expected.”
Under the Mental Capacity Act, it is lawful for doctors to withdraw life-sustaining treatment, including the provision of food and water, at the request of a patient who is suffering from a critical illness. Guidelines issued in 2006 indicate that doctors could be sued for assault if they fail to fulfil such a request.
The legislation has been strongly criticised by pro-life groups, including Christian Concern, for legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide by omission.
Anthony Ozimic, communications director for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented: “It is not unethical for a non-dying patient to refuse futile or disproportionately burdensome medical treatment, as long as their intention is not suicidal.
“In this case, however, what is being withdrawn is standard care appropriate for the condition, with the intention of ending life based on the person’s quality of life. We warned for years that the Mental Capacity Act is based on the inhuman notion that disabled people’s lives may not be worth living. It is sanitised barbarism.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, commented:
“The High Court’s decision can be seen as an incremental step towards the legalisation of full euthanasia in the UK.
“It is absolutely vital however that the current law remains as it is to protect the disabled, sick and elderly from exploitation at the hands of relatives and physicians.
“Disability groups are overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the current protections in place because they understand the consequences of removing them.
"We must stand firm for God’s precious gift of life and not be fooled by the few hard cases which the pro-euthanasia lobby use as the backbone of their campaign.”