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Mother of woman in vegetative state for decade wants specialist treatment to end

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A mother has indicated she wants to seek High Court orders which would effectively result in the death of her daughter, who has been in a vegetative state for almost 10 years.

Now aged in her late 20s, the daughter has been in a vegetative state since she suffered a cardiac arrest or arrests when aged 18, arising, it is believed, from an overdose of an illicit substance. High Court President Mr Justice Peter Kelly said yesterday there was "a great deal of tragedy" about the case and if the mother proceeded as she had indicated she wished to, that raised "fundamental" medical, legal and ethical issues in wardship proceedings concerning the daughter.

The mother and the daughter's stepfather had told the HSE they believed the treatment being provided to her at a specialist unit should end.

Because the treatment includes nutrition and hydration, that would bring about the early death of the daughter, the judge said.

He was told by Donal McGuinness BL, for the HSE, the HSE had initiated wardship proceedings in circumstances where the woman was about to undergo surgery to relieve pressure on her brain.

She lacked capacity to consent to that and an issue arose whether a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) notice should apply if there was any problem with the surgery, counsel said.

The woman's mother and stepfather had favoured a DNR notice, but the situation developed into a "much bigger issue" as to whether it was in the woman's best interests for her current treatment to continue, counsel said.

Mr Justice Kelly said medical reports agreed the woman lacks capacity and he would take her into wardship. On the current medical evidence, she will not be able to regain ability to have any functional independence.

He said the mother and stepfather supported an end to the woman's treatment and sought to be appointed as the committee to represent the woman's interests in the wardship proceedings.

This created a "very unusual" situation because, if they were appointed as committee, whose role is to seek what is in the best interests of the ward, they would be seeking to bring about her early death. This raised "fundamental" medical, ethical and legal issues.

It is essential the woman's interests and rights, including her right to life, be independently represented in the wardship, he said. He appointed Patricia Hickey, general solicitor for wards of court, as the committee to represent those interests.

Irish Independent