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Legal and ethical aspects of the vegetative state.
  1. S A McLean
  1. Department of Medical Ethics, University of Glasgow, UK.


    The diagnosis of persistent or permanent vegetative state (PVS) raises ethical and legal problems. Strict adherence to the doctrine of the sanctity of life would require carers to continue to maintain the individual, perhaps for many years. However, few would regard this as an appropriate outcome when the person clearly has no capacity to interact with the environment and has no likelihood of recovery. However, the ethical and legal commitment to the sanctity of life has led courts to employ a variety of approaches to this situation in order to find a way in which the person in PVS can be allowed to die. It is argued that each of the approaches is disingenuous and ultimately unhelpful. What the law is doing is endorsing non-voluntary euthanasia, but dressing it up as something else. This is unhelpful for all concerned and the time has come for a review of all end of life decisions so that doctors, patients, and relatives can make honest decisions without fear of legal reprisal.

    • Analytical Approach
    • Death and Euthanasia
    • Legal Approach

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