The right to take a loved one off of life support and let them pass away is highly contested throughout the world. The requirements necessary to do so are also debated. A new case out of the U.K. will keep the debate going.
The default position of the law and moralists in Western society has long been that a person, if given the choice, would want to live as long as possible. Anyone who did not share that attitude was believed to be under the influence of psychological or other pressure.
While that belief is easy to acknowledge in young, physically healthy people who attempt suicide, over the past few decades it has been under pressure by advocates for people who are terminally ill. They argue that patients have a right to end their own lives when they want. They also argue that family members have a right to take loved ones off of life support, if the patient has previously expressed a desire to not want to live on life support and there is no hope of recovering from the illness.
FOX News has a report on a new case from the U.K. that expands the debate even further, "Wife wins right to let 'minimally conscious' husband die."
In this case, the husband was a police officer who was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle to work. He suffered severe brain damage and spinal injuries. His wife successfully argued in court to take him off of food and water, so he could pass away in peace.
The difference between this case and previous cases is that the man could possibly recover from his condition, although in a severely brain damaged state. Some doctors believe he could potentially live for another 10 years after recovery.
The case is likely to be appealed.
This case potentially opens up a new front in what is called the “right to die” debate that elder law advocates will watch closely. Even those elder law advocates who believe in the right to die, want some limits on when it can be invoked.
Reference: FOX News (Dec. 21, 2016) "Wife wins right to let 'minimally conscious' husband die."