NHS England: A Call to Action
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Do doctors have the right to turn off life support machine of a patient just after 2 weeks of a brain op even if the family is against it?

My friend had an operation after an aneurysm rapture 2 weeks ago she was fully sedated after the op for a week then taken off sedation but still on a ventilator. She's not opened her eyes but when spoken to she moves or twitches her eyes in response. Docs are saying she is brain damaged but have not shown the family the scans. The docs are now saying that they will turn off the ventilator even if the family disagree. The family are confident she will pull through but she needs time.

6 Replies

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. What an unbelievably difficult time her family must be going through.

You may find this reference guide to consent helpful, particularly Chapter 4, Withdrawing and withholding life-sustaining treatment.


Best wishes.


Thank you for your response much appreciated.


I have another question. My friend was taken off the ventilator last Wednesday the doctor said she would only have a couple of hrs to live as she was in a deep coma. She'd suffered a stroke from the bleed to the brain they said she would not pull through well it's been a week now she's still with us she opened her eyes and there's been some body movements. What's happened now is they have stopped caring for her, she's been moved from the critical ward to a side ward and they say the care they are providing is 'end of life care' only. I understand they will also stop feeding her in due course. The family are wanting to move her from the current hospital in Birmingham to London but that's proving to be difficult. Please can someone advise what can be done to help this patient and her family. There's life in this patient and to see her lie there and being neglected is so heart breaking. Desperate for help with this situation.


On the 22/11/13 my son suffered a brain haemorrhage 3 days after he was discharged from A and E due to collapsing twice and was not scanned although he was a known risk for bleeding on the brain.

He was kept in emergency dept for 3 hours before a scan shown the bleed. He was put on a ventilator prior to results of the scan.

The doctor came to share the results of the scan. He spent 4 mins with us, said bleed was massive, requested use of his organs, we said we did not feel they gave my son a chance, he then proceeded to tell us he was disconnecting life support against our wishes. My husband asked him a question to which he replied, I do have other patients'. The hospital turned off life support and my son passed away 24 hours later.

Do doctor have such rights?


Dear Tracey,

As I am new to this I have not seen your case before. Given the circumstances of what you describe, I would say that this does sound a little unethical and could possibly require you to seek legal advice. There was a fundamental case passed by the courts in 1993, known as the Airedale NHS Trust v Bland [1993] AC 789. In this it was established that the result of modern medicine requires some element of brain or brain stem destruction to result in death, no longer is it as simple to say when one's heart stops and one stop's breathing that one is dead - due to medical advancement. Depending on the age of your son, and of course being in a position of not being able to make an informed decision, if there is a disagreement the parties, it is ultimately for the courts to decide, I refer you to the above link supplied regarding conduct in the medical profession. I would say with regards to the small snap shot of what you have mentioned, that there could be a possible result of medical misconduct, however, I cannot be certain with only seeing what you have said on this. There is certainly a vast array of case law with regards to this issue and I would suggest seeking legal advice if you have not already done so.

To finish, I am sorry to hear of your loss, and hope that you may find some closure and comfort to this horrible scenario in some shape or form.

Best Regards


I am so sorry about your loss but really the Drs know best your son would not have had an active life and needed the machines to keep him alive it is very sad but please remember the happy times I also lost someone in this state from a heavy bleed in the brain whos quality of life would be zero. Their wish was if anything happened to them that they could not do anything for themselves they wanted their life to end.