M case judgment, Court of Protection, 28 September 2011: decision welcome but judgment contains future threats to disabled people
- Ms M has been spared the slow and degrading process of death by dehydration/starvation;
- The judge gave great weight to the evidence of the healthcare staff involved in Ms M’s day-to-day care – more so than expert medical witnesses, and more so than the evidence of her sister who visits her only briefly and occasionally.
- The judgment has extended the scope for the courts to dictate that other patients in a similar condition can be killed
- This case will pave the way for future Court of Protection cases – which may be shrouded in secrecy – which may sanction death for similar patients
- The judgment implies that poor quality of life was grounds for killing starving incapacitated patients
- The judge said that everyone seeking to have similarly disabled relatives killed in this way should get legal aid (but not people who were trying to stop someone being killed)
- The judgment said that the protection of life for vulnerable people was a “fundamental” principle, but not an “absolute” one – a manoeuvre by which he left scope for decisions to starve/dehydrate others in future.
- The legal and media attention devoted to this case belies the fact that hundreds, or perhaps thousands of people with conditions like stroke or dementia, are deliberately killed by withdrawing assisted food and water every year in Britain.
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