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The Law and Ethics of MedicineEssays on the Inviolability of Human Life$
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John Keown

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199589555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589555.001.0001

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Restoring moral and intellectual shape to the law After Bland

Restoring moral and intellectual shape to the law After Bland

Chapter:
(p.328) Chapter 12 Restoring moral and intellectual shape to the law After Bland
Source:
The Law and Ethics of Medicine
Author(s):

John Keown

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589555.003.0012

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

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