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Brain injury patient's care "incredibly sensitive"

20th November 2006

A complex ethical debate has arisen over the treatment of a woman currently in a persistent vegetative state (PVS).

The unnamed 53-year-old woman will be given a sleeping pill that early research indicates may make her 'wake up' from her current state.

It has been decided that the drug zolpidem can be given against the family's wishes, in order to "leave no stone unturned" in seeking an improvement in her condition.

Despite the woman's family's preference to allow her to die, as she may be left seriously disabled, a High Court judge has ruled against them and in favour of the official solicitor, who represents the patient.

"The official solicitor… came to a view that was opposite to the family," said a spokesman for the Department of Constitutional Affairs.

"He accepts that there are incredibly sensitive issues that need to be addressed with this family and the woman herself. But he also takes the view that there are other issues for other patients in this situation.

"He believes that no stone should be left unturned in trying to save life."

The woman has been in a PVS since suffering a brain haemorrhage while on holiday in August 2003.