Research update: A matter of life and death: decision-making in prolonged disorders of consciousness

6th February 2017

Best interests decision making and end of life care is a complex area.  In recent weeks reporting in the press has sparked debate on the role of clinicians.

Professor Lynne Turner-Stokes, of the Department of Palliative Care, Policy & Rehabilitation at the Cicely Saunders Institute has written an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics examining the issue of end of life decision making in prolonged disorders of consciousness.

The article presents a 10-year mortality review demonstrating that clinicians regularly make best interests decisions in conjunction with families (that may include withdrawal of clinically-assisted nutrition and hydration), and that these can be made within the current legal framework without necessarily involving the court in all cases. This is the first published case series of its kind.

Turner-Stokes, L. A matter of life and death: controversy at the interface between clinical and legal decision-making in prolonged disorders of consciousness. J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2016-104057