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Dissonance and consonance about death
  1. Dominic Wilkinson1,2,3
  1. 1 Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2 John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK
  3. 3 Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Dominic Wilkinson, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 1PT, UK; dominic.wilkinson{at}

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In their three thoughtful commentaries on my essay, Prentice, Mahoney and Moore and Lantos reflect on the challenges that I set out: can we make sense of the notion of a good death, and can we use art and music to provide any insights into it?1–3

I was thinking about these questions again while reading this week of yet another UK legal dispute relating to life-sustaining treatment for a child. In January, the High Court heard the case of Pippa Knight, a 5-year-old girl with profound brain injury who is in a persistent vegetative state, and has been ventilated in an intensive care unit for a protracted period.4 All of the experts giving evidence in the case agreed that Pippa lacks any ability to feel pain and that there is sadly no prospect of improvement. Her mother (and some of the experts) believed that, given the absence of pain, it would not be harmful and would be in Pippa’s best interests to attempt to transition her to long-term ventilation at home. Pippa’s treating doctors contended that it would be in her …

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  • Funding DW was supported for this work by a grant from the Wellcome trust 203132/Z/16/Z and by the UKRI/ AHRC funded UK Ethics Accelerator project, grant number AH/V013947/1.

  • Disclaimer The funders had no role in the preparation of this manuscript or the decision to submit for publication.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement There are no data associated with this paper.

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