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Right to Die with a Blink

A judge has passed a landmark ruling that a father who has suffered from Motor Neurone disease for the past ten years can die.

The patient, known as XB, has won the right to die by having his breathing machine removed. Mrs Justice Theis ruled the 67 year old who is unable to write or speak because of the effects of his disease, should be allowed to go through with a living will indicated to his wife through blinking that he wished to desist.

In a first for the Court of Protection, a department within the High Court which rules on life-and-death medical decisions, it has approved the contested living will which calls for the death of a medical patient. The judge commented: “I hope the next stage proceeds as well as can be expected.

Living wills, or advance decisions, allow a patient with complex or serious illness to determine at which point they want their treatment to stop so they can pass away. These wills were given legal force by the 2005 Mental Capacity Act which critics claim is controversial and has introduced a form of mercy killing into the UK.

The man’s wife explained to the court that he “wanted to be allowed peacefully to end his life.”

The family’s lawyer further commented: “XB was a proud and intelligent man living in the south of England suffering from the terminal illness motor neurone disease. He fought a long battle against the disease and has now reached a stage where he can no longer communicate his needs. His family are pleased that the court were able to clarify that his wishes were made and set out in a valid advance directive. They would appreciate that their privacy is respected at a time of obvious grief.”

Debbie Purdy, a multiple sclerosis sufferer and ‘right-to-die’ campaigner, hailed the ruling as a “victory for humanity because it recognises that irrespective of our disabilities we should still have our rights”. But critics of the Mental Capacity Act argue that the case takes the UK another step towards full acceptance of euthanasia.

Britain currently has an army of unpaid carers who take care of loved ones in similar situations and in a poll carried out by the Carers Trust, approximately a quarter reported suffering mental and physical health issues due to the strain of caring and juggling day-to-day life.
Support groups claim there is a postcode lottery when it comes to assisting carers especially since the economic squeeze has reduced funding in adult social care. Elizabeth Holzhausen, director of policy at Carers UK, said: “We are seeing very worrying signs about the impact of local authority cuts and tightening of eligibility criteria.”

Carers need be supported so that they can provide the best care to those they look after and also look after themselves.


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