NHS Trust A v M; NHS Trust B v H [2001] 1 All ER 801

Declaration – persistent vegetative state – withdrawal of medical treatment – right to life – European Convention on Human Rights – best interests

An omission to provide treatment would only be incompatible with article 2 of the Convention where the circumstances were such as to impose a positive obligation on the state to take steps to prolong a patient’s life. The phrase ‘deprivation of life’ imported a deliberate act, as opposed to an omission, by someone acting on behalf of the state, which resulted in death.

Where a responsible clinical decision was made to withhold treatment, on the grounds that it was not in the patient’s best interests, and that clinical decision was made in accordance with a respectable body of medical opinion, the state’s positive obligation under article 2 was discharged.

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