A Right to Die
McAdams, Alison L.
BMJ (British Medical Journal). 1992 Mar 21; 304(6829): 765-766.
The existence and extent of a right to die was recently examined by the Court of Appeal in the case of Re J (a Minor). The case adds to the judicial guidance available when decisions have to be taken regarding treatment of severely disabled patients or those who are facing inevitable death. Not all such cases have to be referred to the courts, only those in which the patient is a ward of court. Nevertheless, the debate concerning a right to die in Re J is of great concern to all those caring for patients who have suffered severe and irreversible physical and mental handicaps but who continue to live....It was decided that the court could direct that treatment need not be given in this particular case, even though death would naturally ensue. In reaching this decision, the court has accepted that it can be wrong to prolong life at any cost. The seemingly limitless bounds of medical technology need not be employed "officiously to keep alive" a patient without considering his or her best interests. However, a strong safeguard came in the statement that "what can never be justified is the use of drugs or surgical procedures with the primary purpose of hastening the moment of death."
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