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Should we continue treatment for M? The benefits of living
  1. Tak Kwong Chan,
  2. George Lim Tipoe
  1. Department of Anatomy, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tak Kwong Chan, Department of Anatomy, The University of Hong Kong, L1 59 Laboratory Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Abstract

Wilkinson and Savulescu did not agree with the court's decision to continue M's treatment and suggested in their recent commentary that the magnitude of benefits of being alive for M is small compared with the potential use of health resources for other patients. We argue that the benefits of being sensate to the surroundings for an otherwise unconscious person are not necessarily small. One cannot assess on behalf of another person the magnitude of benefits of being alive according to the intensity or the duration of negative experiences. Denying life-sustaining treatment to patients in a minimally conscious state solely on the grounds that they are less capable of enjoying the benefits represents grave discrimination against disabled persons. For patients in a minimally conscious state who have not delegated a surrogate or made any advance decision about their medical treatment, the duty of doctors is to preserve their right to self-determination and maximise their capacity to enjoy their life. M should live on, and life-sustaining treatment should not be withdrawn.

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