Chapter

Restoring moral and intellectual shape to the law After <i>Bland</i>

John Keown

in The Law and Ethics of Medicine

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199589555
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741036 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589555.003.0012
Restoring moral and intellectual shape to the law After Bland

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This chapter offers a critique of the landmark decision of the Law Lords in the Bland case, which held it lawful to withdraw tube-feeding from a patient in a “persistent vegetative state”, even with intent to kill. It contends that the Law Lords left the law in a “morally and intellectually misshapen” state, prohibiting the administration of a lethal injection with intent to kill, but permitting the withdrawal of tube-feeding with precisely the same intent. It argues that their Lordships did so because they misunderstood the inviolability of life, confusing it with “vitalism”; failed to distinguish between “quality of life benefits” and “beneficial quality of life”; and, without sufficient justification, classified tube-feeding as “medical treatment” not basic care. The chapter concludes by responding to an attempted defence of the decision by Andrew McGee.

Keywords: Bland; inviolability of life; vitalism; quality of life; tube-feeding; McGee

Chapter.  12809 words. 

Subjects: Medical and Healthcare Law

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