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Brain damaged woman allowed to ‘die with dignity’, judge rules

A woman left with irreversible brain damage and diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state is to be allowed to die with dignity after a judge dismissed reports by two ‘shocked’ therapy assistants that she may have repeatedly whispered the word “die”.

14 November 2012

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Mr Justice Roderic Wood, sitting in the Court of Protection in London, ruled that ‘J’, 56, who suffered a catastrophic heart attack in September 2010, is in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) “with no sense of awareness and no prospect of recovery”, according to a report in the Independent.

The judge dismissed reports by the therapists that on one day last December J began to cry and and twice said she “wanted to die” - and then reportedly whispered “die, die, die” ten times.

Rejecting this “one-off” incident as evidence that J may not be in a vegetative state, the judge accepted expert evidence that J’s “vocalisation” - meaningless noises that could be made by PVS patients - had been “innocently misinterpreted” as “verbalisation” by the therapists.

The judge said the overwhelming weight of medical evidence supported highly distinguished and experienced doctors who had diagnosed J as being in a vegetative state.

The judge declared it lawful and in the “best interests” of J, who is divorced and childless and being cared for at a neurological rehabilitation centre, for doctors and a local health board to withdraw artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH), said the Independent’s report.

“There are no further investigations and treatment which should be undertaken,” said the judge.

He ordered that J, who cannot be named for legal reasons, should receive “such treatment and nursing care appropriate to ensure she retains the greatest dignity until such time as her life comes to an end”.

The judge described how J had suffered a prolonged cardiac arrest that resulted in “irreversible brain damage of a catastrophic nature”.

Although resuscitated, she never truly recovered and was now incapable of independent living or making decisions about whether life-sustaining treatment should be withheld.

The Official Solicitor, appointed to represent J’s interests, supported the health board’s application to withdraw nutrition and allow her to die.

For the Independent’s full report, see

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