Skip to comments.Brain-damaged woman must be given 'wake-up' pill, orders judge
Posted on 11/20/2006 1:49:59 PM PST by presidio9
A judge has rejected a family's plea that a 53-year-old woman in a vegetative state should be allowed to die.
He has ordered instead that she should be given a drug that could wake her up.
Theoretically the patient could then spend the rest of her life severely disabled and aware of her condition.
Sir Mark Potter, president of the High Court Family Division, says the woman should be given zolpidem, a common sleeping pill.
It has been used before on victims of severe brain damage who have then regained consciousness.
The woman, who cannot be named, suffered a massive brain haemorrhage on holiday in August 2003 and has been diagnosed as in a persistent vegetative state.
Sir Mark ruled that doctors should try giving her the drug before a final decision has to be made on whether to stop giving her food and water artificially, and let her die.
His decision was supported by the Official Solicitor Laurence Oates who represents PVS patients when their families seek permission to allow them to die.
A spokesman said Mr Oates, who has now retired, thought the woman should be given zolpidem to test if she could 'wake up.'
He said: "It was a very difficult case, but Mr Oates believed that before anyone is allowed to die every test possible should be carried out."
Sir Mark is believed to have also heard evidence from experts who look after severely brain-damaged patients.
It is the first time a ruling has been made to keep a PVS patient alive in order to use the drug. The case follows new Government guidelines, revealed by the Daily Mail on Saturday, which tell doctors they risk being put on trial for assault if they refuse to allow patients who have made 'living wills' to die.
The Lord Chancellor told the medical profession that those who do not follow the wills could face jail or big compensation claims in the court.
In a guide to Labour's Mental Capacity Act, which comes into operation next spring, Lord Falconer said living wills must be enforced. PVS patients are described as 'awake but not aware'. Unlike patients in a coma their eyes are open but they see nothing and are not conscious of their surroundings.
They breathe normally but have no swallowing reflex and have to be kept alive by artificial feeding and hydration.
In 1993 the courts sanctioned the withdrawal of feeding from Tony Bland, a 21-year-old brain-damaged survivor of the Hillsborough football ground disaster.
The case went to the House of Lords where law lords ruled it was in his best interests to be allowed to die and said doctors could lawfully stop artificial feeding because they would not be killing him, but withdrawing treatment.
Since then the High Court has sanctioned the withdrawal of food and drink from dozens of PVS patients when doctors, families and the Official Solicitor have agreed that death was in the patient's best interests.
The case of Terri Schiavo, whose husband fought a seven-year battle in Florida before she was allowed to die last year, heightened the debate in the U.S.
THE NEW LEASE OF LIFE DRUG Zolpidem has been used in South Africa with amazing results. One recipient is 32-year-old Miss X, who cannot be named for legal reasons. She suffered four cardiac arrests and hypoxia - a lack of oxygen to the brain - after contracting septicaemia four years ago.
Without the pill, she can barely stand, her arms are in spasm and she cannot speak, although her intelligence has not been affected. But after being given a dose of the drug she can stand up, stretch to her full height and clap her hands.
The left side of her face is no longer drooping and her eyes sparkle. She smiles broadly and can even use a keyboard to communicate with people, telling them how she now hopes to speak again.
Aware doesn't necessarily mean communicative. There's a huge difference.
Look where Kennedy woke up.
If I were a judge, and a family said "Potential treatment? One that will show beyond doubt whehter she's really gone or not? No thanks, we'll just starve her," I'd be mighty suspicious.
Generally, if one of these cases is in court it's because there's some doubt what the person wanted.
No, refusing treatment is not euthanasia or anything remotely like it. The two should not be confused, even to make a point.
Certainly you should have that person's permission before you put them in that situation but I dont agree you shouldnt do it. Someone has to be able to make a decision, the one you pick should be capable of doing it .Once you know how the victim feels it should cause no lasting remorse to accede to their will.
Because life has been cheapened selectively. Some of these posts I've read... really disturb my heart. It used to be in the medical profession we would preserve life....no matter what the cost. Otherwise, why would we have spent so many billions on research......trying to find cures?
Those who advocate "food and water" as a treatment...wanting it removed to extinguish those who are inconvenient, probably squeal to high heaven themselves.... if made to miss their lunch by an hour or two.
Yeah, but you'll never see me protesting outside of your hospital room. I'm scared to death I might see you outside mine.
According to who? Where did you read that? Can you support that idiotic statement?
The "P" stands for "Persistent". By definition, they have no chance of recovery.
Are you an authority?
According to who? Where did you read this? This article makes no reference to what you're describing.
It is a fact. It is the definition of PVS. The "P" stands for "Persistent".
"... but sometimes, yes, sometimes, they do."
They never, no, never, do. If the patient regains consciousness, then they weren't PVS.
"I'm scared to death I might see you outside mine."
Probably not. I support the judges' decision in this case. PVS is not the same thing as brain dead. Brain dead is just that, NO brain activity. In PVS patients, EEG's show a high level of brain activity. BIG difference.
Then they were misdiagnosed as PVS.
"When food and water is defined as "artificial life support"; so that it can be withheld from PVS patients"
No one is saying it must be withheld. Do you have a problem calling a ventilator "artificial life support"? Do you think people call a ventilator "artificial life support" so it can be withheld?
"is one of the most frightening thing"
What's frightening is that you would be willing to watch 10 curable people die for lack of resources that a severly brain damaged PVS patient is using. And you'd feel noble about it.
No. But if you continue to misrepresent what I said, I might change my answer.
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