Doctors can now turn off life support without judge's permission

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The 52-year-old man, who can only be identified as Mr Y, had been in a vegetative state since June 2017.

The ruling makes it easier to withdraw food and liquid to allow such patients to die when families and doctors are in agreement.

Doctors said he was unlikely to ever wake up, but that if he did he would have profound cognitive and physical disabilities and would always be dependent on others.

Mr Y had not drawn up any advance decision to refuse treatment but his family firmly believed he would not want to be kept alive given the poor prognosis.

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His family and his doctors agreed it would be in his best interests to withdraw his feeding tube and allow him to die.

In November, a High Court judge ruled that it was not necessary for them to bring the matter to court beforehand.

The High Court granted that declaration, which was appealed by Mr Y's solicitor.

For the last 25 years, the cases of people in permanent vegetative states have been decided by the Court of Protection, which makes decisions on welfare issues for people who lack the mental capacity to do so themselves.

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Justices at the Supreme Court have now unanimously dismissed his argument.

Richard Gordon QC, for the Official Solicitor, said that the central issue was whether the obtaining of an order from the Court of Protection, before CANH could lawfully be withdrawn from a person in a PDOC, was unnecessary where treating clinicians and the family agreed it was not in the patient's best interests. It is about who decides that question'.

Richard Gordon QC argued that common law or European Union human rights law should require that any case involving the withdrawal of such treatment should be subject to an application as to whether it is in the best interests of the patient.

"If there is agreement upon what is in the best interests of the patient, the patient may be treated in accordance with that agreement without application to the court", Black said in the ruling.

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