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Friday, 11 August, 2000, 06:35 GMT 07:35 UK
Motor neurone sufferer wins right to die
MND is a fatal nerve condition
Motor neurone disease cripples the body but not the mind
A teenager suffering from motor neurone disease has been told he has the right to die when he loses his final means of communication.

The 19-year-old, who has not been named, can only communicate his wishes to his parents and doctors by blinking his left eye.

A High Court Family Division judge on Thursday granted doctors a declaration that it would not be unlawful to withdraw life support from the man, known only as AK.

Motor neurone disease is a fatal nerve condition which cripples the body but not the mind. It kills three people in the UK every day.

Motor neurone disease
Three people in the UK die from MND every day
1,200 diagnosed every year
Life expectancy is two to five years
There is no cure

AK told his family through "yes and no" blinks of his eye that he wants his artificial ventilation turned off if he loses the ability to communicate with the outside world.

His parents turned to the courts after a doctor in charge of AK's care was given conflicting advice on whether it would be legal to allow the teenager to die.

He has asked doctors to wait two weeks before acting in case his ability to communicate returns.

Healthy teenager

AK was a healthy teenager until he was struck down by the disease in 1998 and progressively lost the ability to move and speak.

In most cases sufferers die of respiratory failure.

The court was told that within a fortnight AK would have no ability left even to blink, leaving him "locked into" his body.

His senses would be intact but there would be no way of telling if he was in pain or what were his wishes.

Mr Justice Hughes praised everyone responsible for AK's "immaculate" care and said the teenager was capable of making up his own mind about his future and had done so "with some courage".

He said that it was clearly established in law that to ignore AK's wishes would be "positively unlawful".

The teenager is being cared for at home by his parents.

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11 May 99 | Euthanasia
Fighting for the right to die
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