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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 13:58 GMT
Miss B's story
Miss B court sketch
Miss B needs help to breathe
Although her identity cannot be revealed, the High Court heard details of Miss B's background and career.

She was born in Jamaica, but moved to the UK at the age of eight.

Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss, who gave her verdict on Friday, said that she had had an "unhappy childhood" but had "triumphed" over her difficulties.

In particular, she had managed to gain both a degree in social science and social work, and a Masters degree in Public Policy and Administration.

In addition, she gained a diploma from a London college, before becoming a social worker for an unnamed local authority.

She remains unmarried, but is said to have a close circle of friends, and a godchild.

However, her life changed in August 1999 when doctors, after carrying out tests, warned her that the blood vessels in her spinal column were "malformed", placing her at risk.

At the time, she wrote an advance directive which instructed doctors not to treat her - even to save her life - if she was left suffering from a life-threatening condition, in a coma, or mentally impaired.

Sudden attack

However, her condition did not worsen, and she resumed her career.

In early 2001, symptoms emerged which suggested that the problem was getting worse.

Miss B suffered weakening of the left side of her body and her legs felt numb.

Shortly afterwards, the malformed blood vessels ruptured, causing a massive bleed, and leaving her tetraplegic - paralysed from the neck down.

She is unable to breathe unaided, and requires constant intensive care, with a ventilator, to keep her alive.

Request denied

An operation did improve her condition, allowing her to move her head and speak - at which point she made her first request for the ventilator to be switched off.

Two independent psychiatrists were called in to assess her mental condition, and to find out whether she was capable of making such a radical decision.

Initially, they agreed that she was indeed capable, but a few days later reversed that decision - prescribing antidepressants instead.

At this point, Miss B's legal action was launched.

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