Court may be asked to let man die

DOCTORS are considering an approach to the High Court to ask for permission to disconnect feeding tubes and allow a victim of the Hillsborough disaster to die.

The parents of Tony Bland, 21, who has been unconscious since 1989, have repeatedly asked for him to die with dignity, but have seen their wishes denied by an area of the law that is unclear.

Mr Bland's doctors at Airedale Hospital, near Keighley, West Yorkshire, fear that they could be prosecuted for murder if they stop giving him food and water.

His condition is known as persistent vegetative state which, according to most experts, leaves no hope of recovery but the possibility that he could survive for another 30 years. Although he breathes normally, higher brain functions have been destroyed. About 1,500 people are believed to be in this state.

Yesterday, Yorkshire Regional Health Authority said that it had consulted legal experts on the possibility of bringing a test case.

It said: 'We are very sympathetic towards this young man's family. Clarification of this important ethical question would be not just for the benefit of Mr Bland's family, but hundreds of relatives of other patients with the persistent-vegetative state.'

If such an action went ahead, it would raise difficult ethical and legal issues, the crucial one involving a decision on whether the feeding tubes constituted treatment, lawyers said yesterday.

At present, the courts accept that doctors can allow patients to die where there is no hope of recovery and they are kept alive only by medical treatment.

'But is, in fact, feeding somebody down a tube medical treatment?' Dr Kate Allsopp, of the Medical Defence Union, said. 'You can argue that this is a hotel facility. The law is not clear.'

However, Andrew Grubb, reader in medical law at King's College, London, said that there was no difference 'in principle or logic' between withdrawing treatment and disconnecting feeding tubes to a patient in persistent vegetative state. The only arguments against such an action would be based on emotion, he said.

He said: 'My best judgement is that the courts will say that it is lawful to disconnect provided that the doctors have reasonably come to the view that it is truly a persistent vegetative state.'

He said, however, that some medical experts believed that the condition could be treated, particularly in its early stages.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral