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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

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

John Keown

Oxford University Press

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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