The case of M
A woman in a minimally conscious state who was not granted the right to die
- By: Ben Jacobs
The debate surrounding the right to die of patients with diminished consciousness has recently taken an important step forward. In what is already being described as a “landmark case,” the family of a minimally conscious woman in her forties referred to as “M,” requested to have her artificial nutrition and hydration removed, thus ending her life.
Lord Justice Baker of the UK High Court of Justice refused the application on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to establish that withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration would be in M’s best interests, and that the law errs on the side of preservation of life in such cases.1 The case is legally, ethically, and clinically important, as it reaffirms the distinction between M’s condition, minimally conscious state, and a more severe form of impaired consciousness, vegetative state.
In 2003, M experienced irreparable damage to the brain stem as a result of viral