Judge rules fall victim be allowed to 'die with dignity'

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The Independent Online
A judge has paved the way for an 81-year-old woman who has been kept alive by tube feeding for two years to be allowed to "die with dignity".

The woman, who cannot be identified, has been in hospital since being found at her home suffering from head injuries after a suspected fall.

Sir Stephen Brown, President of the Family Division of the High Court, in the sixth case of its kind, has given consent for the tube feeding to end so she can "be allowed to die with dignity".

The application for the woman, who was represented in court by the Official Solicitor, to be allowed to die was made by her daughter yesterday and was not opposed.

The pensioner is in a persistent vegetative state, the same condition suffered by Tony Bland, a victim of the Hillsborough football stadium disaster who was the first person to be made subject of an order that life supporting treatment should cease and he should be allowed to die peacefully.

In making the order in respect of the woman, Sir Stephen expressed his sympathy for her family in having to make the decision that the time had come for her to be allowed to die.

In the face of criticism of similar orders in the past, Sir Stephen has emphasised that they must not be likened to euthanasia, which he has said entails an "invasive event" which is designed to bring about death rather than the withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment.

A spokesman for the Official Solicitor said yesterday that there were another two to three similar cases waiting to come to court and added: "They are always sad and tragic cases."

However, the spokesman emphasised that they were "a world away" from any moves to administer lethal injections to those who are severely ill and disabled.