Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

There is a strong presumption in favour of the maintenance of life. Given sufficient evidence, it can be rebutted. But the epistemic uncertainties about the best interests of patients in prolonged disorders of consciousness ('PDOC') and the wishes that they should be presumed to have are such that, in most PDOC cases, the presumption cannot be rebutted. It is conventional and wrong (or at least unsupported by the evidence) to assume that PDOC patients have no interest in continued existence. Treatment withdrawal/continuation decisions should focus on the patient as he or she actually is, and should not unjustifiably assume that the premorbid patient continues to exist unchanged, and that the actual patient has the same interests as the premorbid patient and would make the same decisions in relation to treatment as the premorbid patient would have done.

Original publication




Journal article


J Med Ethics

Publication Date





800 - 801


allocation of healthcare resources, autonomy, bills, laws and cases, capacity, decision-making, Ethics, Medical, Humans, Life Support Care, Persistent Vegetative State, Uncertainty, Withholding Treatment