Brain-Damaged Woman Allowed To Die By Judge

A devoted wife and mother left with profound brain damage following a tragic holiday accident four years ago has been given the “right to die” with dignity by a senior High Court judge.

Family Division President Sir Mark Potter revealed yesterday that he gave permission for doctors caring for the woman – named only as SW and who is in a permanent vegetative state – to withdraw life-sustaining treatment. Yesterday Sir Mark made public his reasons for the decision he made on January 17 after a private hearing.

It was in January 2003 while the “lively and intelligent” mother of two was cycling by the sea on holiday in Turkey that she suffered her injuries. She fell in the water. When rescued, she was unconscious and suffering from profound brain damage after suffering a cardiac arrest associated with drowning.

She showed signs of recovery and made gradual but steady improvement until, by the middle of 2003, she was able to communicate by speaking a few words, said the judge. He said: “She appeared to understand simple commands and could make limited choices.

She reached a stage where she could identify colours, tell the time, read very simple words and sentences, and even repeat some words in French to her husband. She also recognized her friends and family.” But despite “great care and devotion” from her husband her condition worsened, said the judge. She became infected with MRSA and by 2005 she had moved into a vegetative state and needed feeding through a tube.

Her husband, two sons and the rest of her family “have done all they can to care for SW and make her existence in hospital as happy and comfortable as possible,” said the judge.

But after she had been unresponsive for a year the family believed “that she would not herself wish to remain alive in her present condition. I have no doubt they are correct,” he said.

He paid tribute to the husband’s “loving and conscientious devotion “to the care of his wife, who was represented by the Official Solicitor who looks after the interests of those who cannot look after themselves.

He supported the application by the family and the hospital and trust, which cannot be named for legal reasons, in seeking permission to withdraw life-sustaining treatment.

The judge ruled that she “be given such treatment and nursing and care as might be appropriate to ensure that she retained the greatest dignity until such time as her life comes to an end”.

He said she was “a very outgoing and active person” and a keen member of the sailing fraternity. She and her husband had retired early so they could both do more sailing together.

The judge said: “In those circumstances the long-term effects of her accident were more than usually tragic in a situation where the devotion of her family, combined with intensive medical care, proved unable ultimately to alleviate her sad state.”