Should cases of permanent vegetative state still go to court?
Britain should follow other countries and keep the courts for cases of dispute
Since the judgments in the Tony Bland case in 1993 it has been necessary to obtain high court approval before withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration from a patient in a permanent vegetative state. There have been 18 cases in England and one in Scotland, and Wade and Johnston have reviewed the medical and legal procedures involved.1 A consensus exists in many countries that such treatment withdrawal is medically, morally, and legally appropriate, but only in the United Kingdom is a court appearance required before this can be done.2 May it not be time to change this practice?
In the Bland case the Master of the Rolls and four of the five judges in the House of Lords indicated that their recommendation that future cases should each come to court was to be an interim measure until a body of medical expertise and practice had been built up and public confidence