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Paralysed woman has right to die: health board

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 26 Apr 2010, 12:36

Published: 26 Apr 2010 12:36 GMT+02:00

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"It is always the individual patient who decides, together with their doctor, over treatment and care. While the board does not make decisions in individual cases, we can describe the legal framework that applies and we have now done so," said Anders Printz in a welfare board statement on Monday.

In a letter to the 32-year-old woman, sent also to other patients who had submitted similar requests, the board concluded that "health care legislation emphasizes respect for patient autonomy and integrity and that care should as much as possible be designed and implemented in consultation with the patient".

The 32-year-old, who was was born with a neurological illness that has led to a continuous deterioration of her condition, was upbeat on Monday after being told of the welfare board's findings.

"I am very happy and my soul is at ease," she told the Expressen daily.

The board clarified that according to existing legislation, "if the patient does not want a life support treatment to be initiated or continued, the physician should respect the patient's wishes".

The advisory ruling extends beyond the terminally ill and covers the seriously ill that are being kept alive with medical efforts and thus addresses the controversial issue of euthanasia.

The board advises that, in order to discontinue life support treatment, the responsible physicians must have provided a definitive diagnosis to assess disease prognosis and the treatment options that are available.

The only exception to the constitutional principle that every citizen should be protected from forced care is when the law allows it, for example the provision allowing for compulsory psychiatric care.

Story continues below…

The board has also advised that healthcare givers have a responsibility to provide a dying patient with pain killers and treatment for anxiety, for example to issue morphine or soporifics after the suspension of respiratory treatment.

"The point of departure is that it is the patient who decides what treatment he or she receives and when it should be stopped," Anders Printz concluded.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:13 April 26, 2010 by skatsouf
the Pandora's box is now open
14:24 April 26, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
This is a logical solution in a secular society which places more value on convenience rather than life. A sad day for all of us. I am sure some will see this as an enlightned decision. However, what does this say about us as people, a society not willing to fight for survival?
14:41 April 26, 2010 by Audrian
It is an end to the cruelty of medical care that forces people, with null quality of life, to live.
15:29 April 26, 2010 by AndreaGerak
Swedish National Board of Sickness and Death...
15:52 April 26, 2010 by NJGirl
Sad day indeed. It will be all downhill now. The Swedish society "evolved" back to Viking days: kill! kill! kill!

I am going to throw up my breakfast now!
16:37 April 26, 2010 by calebian22
Why the doom and gloom? No one is terminating her life against her will. She has decided to give up the fight for survival. Her choice. Good for her good for Sweden.
17:45 April 26, 2010 by mjennin2
Here's the thing, though: The Health Board's decision is purely legal, and justifiable. I, too, think this is a sad day, and I, too, feel like this is going to set an uneasy precedant (ie, Pandora's box). However, if we look at the legality of this, the patient's decision to withdraw from treatment is *NOT* the same as euthanasia, in which medication or something else is *administered* to a patient in order to cause death. This is simply pulling the plug, a decision that those with Power of Attorney or close kin have the authority to make should the patient be rendered entirely incapacited....so, why not allow the patient herself to make that decision, if capable? And, if she is an organ donor, perhaps her organs are salvagable to the point of bringing some good out of this awful tragedy. She has been imprisoned in a lifeless body for nearly 30 years, and has lived out a fairly long life all things considered, IMHO. She's not giving up, it's just time for her.
17:51 April 26, 2010 by Already in use
If there is anything we have the right to decide about, it's our own life. It is entirely correct to respect this woman's wish if a cause in psychological problems can be ruled out.
18:20 April 26, 2010 by proteasome
It is a good day if you think an individual has final say over their life. Do we really need big brother deciding everything in Sweden? Any volunteers for living the life the 32-year-old woman's lives for a year, a month, a week? Is society the expert on her life or does she get to add the pluses and minuses?
18:52 April 26, 2010 by Marathongirl
Nicely said mjennin2.
19:35 April 26, 2010 by "green Swede"
Yeah it's all academic,how could any of us possibly know what's it's like to live a moment of this womans existence,at the end of the day the decision is hers and hers alone.if there is no question of any mental instability than our opinion of what is right or wrong doesn't come in to it,just as someone else's wouldn't if any of us found ourselves in such terrible circumstances.
19:52 April 26, 2010 by crofab
An excellent decision.
20:59 April 26, 2010 by skatsouf
an excellent discussion in these comments
00:58 April 27, 2010 by kenny8076
all these ''sad'' comments coming from people that couldnt imagine what she hasn't been able to do her whole life. Who are you to tell her she should have to stay in a bed on a tube for the rest of her life? You people arent able to think outside of the box and see ''life'' for what it is. Its not in a hospital bed with a tube in your mouth never being to move anything below your neck for 70 years, or whatever sad age you want people like this to have to live through! Now THATS sad!
06:14 April 27, 2010 by Douglas Garner
Another way to look at this... she will no longer be forced to accept treatment that she does not want. She has spent her life virtually encarcerated and now she will have the right to move on... to whatever is next.
08:18 April 27, 2010 by Luckystrike
Good comments, Kenny and Douglas!
09:44 April 27, 2010 by Elton John
I guess some of you would prefer these people to live in pain for another 50 years or so.
09:49 April 27, 2010 by Twiceshy
There are some amazingly sanctimonious comments here.

Of course she has the right to die. No one should force any treatment upon her.
15:51 April 27, 2010 by NJGirl
Of course she has the right to die, except how is she going to do it? She is paralysed from the neck down! Somebody has to kill her and THIS is euthanasia. Pretty soon all Swedish doctors will be forced to do those so called "mercy" killing. I wonder, will they ( the doctors) have THE RIGHT to refuse it?
09:42 April 29, 2010 by Twiceshy
I was under the impression they just had to stop treating her, not kill her themselves.

If I'm diagnosed with a bad illness I can refuse to be treated if I think I'll be better off not going through a bad treatment which is probably just going to postpone the inevitable by a little bit. Why shouldn't this woman be allowed to do the same?
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