Today, the UK Supreme Court decided that physicians may withdraw treatment from patients in a persistent vegetative state without consulting the courts in every case – providing that both the medical team and the patient’s relatives are agreed that this withdrawal is in the patient’s best interests.
A six-minute video of the court delivering the decision is available here.
If a patient had signed a detailed and explicit “advance decision to refuse treatment” form before becoming unconscious, then there was never any need to go to court. But in the UK, as in the USA, few patients have advance directives.
Today’s decision removes an expensive and time-consuming hurdle for families. Most US states removed such hurdles decades ago. But some such hurdles remain for patients in a minimally conscious state.