Commenting on the dilemma presented by the 'highly distressing and difficult' case of Tony Bland, 21 - who has been in a persistent vegetative state for three years with no prospect of recovery - Lord Browne-Wilkinson observed: 'The court has to redefine murder in the light of new technology.'
James Munby QC, for the Official Solicitor, who is representing Mr Bland's interests, maintained that withdrawing the patient's feeding tube 'would be a criminal act and has the necessary intention to make it murder'.
'The significance of this appeal hardly requires emphasis . . . The question for your Lordships is whether you can deprive a patient of life-sustaining treatment simply and solely on the basis of outsiders' evaluation of the quality, or lack of quality of that patient's life.'
The High Court and the Court of Appeal have already ruled that feeding can be withdrawn in line with the wishes of Mr Bland's parents. The hearing is expected to last two or three days.