Woman 'glad to be alive'

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"I am a realist," says Jean Bailey. "If you saw my daughter you would think her quality of life is poor but she thinks it's good and she's told me so - and she also knows she is very disabled. You just have to look at her face. She beams at me and everyone on the ward."

Three years ago, Jean's daughter Anita, then aged 20, was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state after a car accident which damaged virtually every part of her brain.

At first she needed a ventilator to help her breathe and her mother wanted it switched off. "I did not want any pain and suffering. My main worry was that she would come out of it and wished that she died. It seemed terrible to me to keep someone alive just for your own personal feelings," Mrs Bailey, 47, says.

But her husband would not discuss it and her teenage son threw himself across his sister's bed and said no one was going to take her away.

Mrs Bailey, from Basildon in Essex, is grateful to them now. Anita came off the ventilator and breathed on her own. Shortly after she was moved to the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London in March 1994, the head occupational therapist rang the family and said Anita was not in PVS, and had begun to communicate by means of a buzzer.

Progress has been painstakingly slow and her mother puts Anita's mental age at about 13. She is incontinent and unable to move her limbs. She suffers agonising spasms in her feet and legs. However, she can hear and see, enjoys films, television, and makes regular trips out to the pub, clubs, and theatre.

"She loves a laugh and gossip with us. She uses a computer to spell out words although it takes her ages," Mrs Bailey said. "I have asked her - keeping it simple - if she wanted to die instead of live like this. She says she is glad she is alive."