The family of a Muslim man in the UK who is in a persistent vegetative state are fighting in the High Court for him to receive – against medical advice – life-saving treatment if his condition deteriorates.
A judge was told the family of patient “L”, from the Greater Manchester area, believes that if the severely brain-damaged 55-year-old could express his wishes he would never agree, because of his faith, to an order that he should not be resuscitated or ventilated.
Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which is responsible for his care, is seeking a court declaration that it would not be in his best interests to offer him ventilation or resuscitation if there was “a life-threatening event”.
Claire Watson, appearing for the Trust, said it was the unanimous view of clinicians treating L, as well as independent experts, that the family man was in a persistent vegetative state “with minimal prospects of improving any neurological function and no meaningful prospect of further recovery”.
“The consensus of opinion is that in the event of significant deterioration L should not be actively resuscitated or ventilated.”
Ms Watson told Mr Justice Moylan, sitting in the Court of Protection in London: “Rather than there being the prolongation of life, there would be the prolongation of death and lack of dignity.”
But the judge was told it was the family’s view that “life is sacred and it would be contrary to the tenets of their religion not to provide life-supporting treatment”.
One of L's sons told the court in a statement that, under Islam generally, "we believe that you prolong life as far as you can go and that you actively take every step to so do''.
The son, referred to as Mr FL, added: “My father was very aware of these issues and often when we heard stories in the media about negligence and decisions to turn off life support, he would wince his face and give a look of disapproval.
“It was a solemn look of disapproval and sadness.”
Mr FL also described the efforts L had made to ensure his own father’s life was prolonged when he was seriously ill.
The family also believes L, who suffered a cardiac arrest in mid-July which resulted in severe brain damage, is not as “unresponsive” as the doctors suggest.
The judge was told that, since mother and son had signed their court statements, family members on daily visits to hospital had continued to observe “some degree of responsiveness” on L’s part.
They are arguing that it is “simply too soon” to determine whether L is in a “permanent” vegetative state, or to conclude that his quality of life would be so limited or wretched – as one doctor had concluded – to make life-saving treatment futile.