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Home      Airedale N.H.S. Trust v Bland
Airedale N.H.S. Trust v Bland [1993] A.C. 789 House of Lords

Tony Bland was a young supporter of Liverpool F.C. who was caught in the Hillsborough crush which reduced him to a persistent vegetative state. He had been in this state for three years and was being kept alive on life support machines. His brain stem was still functioning, which controlled his heartbeat, breathing and digestion, so technically he was still alive. However, he was not conscious and had no hope of recovery. The hospital with the consent of his parents applied for a declaration that it might lawfully discontinue all life-sustaining treatment and medical support measures designed to keep him alive in that state, including the termination of ventilation, nutrition and hydration by artificial means.


The declaration was granted.

The court recognised there was the intention was to cause death. Lord goff stated to actively to bring a patient's life to an end is:-
"to cross the Rubicon which runs between on the one hand the care of the living patient and on the other hand euthanasia - actively causing his death to avoid or to end his suffering. Euthanasia is not lawful at common law": per Lord Goff at p. 865 F.

Withdrawal of treatment was, however, properly to be characterised as an omission. An omission to act would nonetheless be culpable if there was a duty to act. There was no duty to treat if treatment was not in the best interests of the patient. Since there was no prospect of the treatment improving his condition the treatment was futile and there was no interest for Tony Bland in continuing the process of artificially feeding him upon which the prolongation of his life depends.
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