By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
The family of Niall McGrath told the Irish Sun News that Niall, who awoke from a 21-year coma in 2010, would be dead if the decision recently passed by the UK’s Supreme Court had been in effect.
Last month, UK’s Supreme Court decided that patients in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) and minimally conscious state (MCS) can be starved and dehydrated to death without permission from the court, if the medical staff and relatives agree that this is in their ‘best interests’.
McGrath’s family is concerned that the decision to starve and dehydrate to death people with brain injuries in the UK, may also be permitted in Ireland.
Indeed, since UK’s Supreme Court decision, the British Medical Association (BMA) introduced “confidential” draft guidelines that enable doctors to dehydrate and sedate to death non-dying patients with dementia, stroke, or brain injuries.
In writing about the BMA guidelines, Dr. Peter Saunders stated:
This is a recipe for euthanasia by stealth, but all in the name of autonomy and ‘best interests’ – the very worst kind of doctor paternalism justified on the grounds that the patient would ‘have wanted’ it.
There are conceivably tens of thousands of patients in England and Wales who are vulnerable to the use and abuse of this ‘guidance’. It will be almost impossible to work out what has happened in a given case and there are no legal mechanisms in place for bringing abusers to justice.
Niall was pronounced clinically dead in 1989. Life-sustaining treatment was withdrawn from him three times, but he continued to breath on his own. In 2010, Niall awoke from Coma after 21 years and he has been steadily recovering ever since. The Irish Sun reported:
Niall could not speak or move up to eight years ago and “now he’s able to stand up for 25 minutes and he can transfer himself from the wheelchair to the bed.”
He also uses an iPad, and attends speech therapy.
Niall currently lives in a nursing home, which is inappropriate for a 50-year-old man with a brain injury. Nonetheless, he is alive. How many people are being killed by dehydration because they have been misdiagnosed or because the family or medical practitioners are not willing to wait for a recovery.
Medical experts now agree that 40% of people deemed to be in a PVS state are misdiagnosed.
Editor’s note. This appears on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.