FOUR YEARS OF 'FUTILE' DRUG TREATMENT

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The Independent Online
Tony Bland was crushed and his brain died at Hillsborough football stadium in 1989, but in spite of the wishes of his parents that treatment should cease, he was not allowed to die until the House of Lords had ruled on his case four years later, writes Stephen Ward.

His parents, convinced they had lost their son but unable to grieve properly, mounted a legal battle so that he could be allowed to die. The key issue, which had never been tested in the English courts, was whether a feeding tube could be considered medical treatment. The five Law Lords were unanimous that he should be allowed to die, but they said the moral, social and legal dilemmas surrounding euthanasia must be tackled by Parliament.

Mr Bland, 22, would have died without tubes inserted into his body to carry nourishment. His eyes were open but he did not see and movement was by reflex only. Drugs had to be administered to treat the many infections to which he was prone.

Faced with this prognosis, the Lords endorsed the earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal and the President of the Family Division when they ruled that his interests would not be served by continuing with this "futile" treatment.

Last year a court decided that a Broadmoor patient was allowed to refuse consent to have his gangrenous leg amputated, even if it endangered his life.

In another case, the woman cohabiting with a Norwegian stroke victim referred to as Mr S was able to gain an injunction preventing his son transporting him to Norway for treatment.

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