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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Right-to-die patient dies
High court graphic
The ruling will affect future right-to-die arguments
A woman paralysed from the neck down has died peacefully in her sleep after winning the legal right to have medical treatment withdrawn.

The Department of Health announced on Monday that the woman, known as Miss B, "has chosen to have all artificial ventilation which she is receiving as part of her medical treatment withdrawn".

The statement continued: "She has died peacefully in her sleep after being taken off the ventilator at her request."

She is clearly a splendid person and it is tragic that someone of her ability has been struck down so cruelly

Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss
Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, President of the High Court family division, ruled last month that Miss B had the "necessary mental capacity to give consent or to refuse consent to life-sustaining medical treatment".

It was the 43-year-old former social care professional's case that it was her decision, not her doctors', whether the ventilator which kept her alive should be switched off.

In a landmark ruling, Dame Elizabeth gave Miss B the right to be transferred to another hospital and be treated in accordance with her wishes, including drug treatment and care to "ease her suffering and permit her life to end peacefully and with dignity".

'Great courage'

Dame Elizabeth, who met Miss B at her bedside in a London hospital, said of the patient: "I would like to add how impressed I am with her as a person, with the great courage, strength of will and determination she has shown in the last year, with her sense of humour, and her understanding of the dilemma she has posed to the hospital.

"She is clearly a splendid person and it is tragic that someone of her ability has been struck down so cruelly.

"I hope she will forgive me for saying, diffidently, that if she did reconsider her decision, she would have a lot to offer the community at large."

Dame Elizabeth added in her ruling: "Administration of ventilation by artificial means against the claimant's wishes since 8 August, 2001, has been an unlawful trespass."

She awarded Miss B a nominal 100 damages for the unlawful trespass.

The judge also ordered that the woman, her doctors, and the hospital involved, could not be named.

The BBC's Andy Tighe
"No intervention was needed to help her die"
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"A patient cannot ask for extra treatment to cause their death"
See also:

23 Jan 02 | Health
Right-to-die case fast-tracked
04 Oct 01 | Health
Woman granted right to die
05 Oct 00 | Health
Court hears 'right to die' cases
22 Mar 02 | Health
Judge's praise for Miss B
29 Apr 02 | Health
Q&A: Right to die
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