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UK News

Catholic church leaders call for modification in UK medical law after death of coma patient

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales have repeated their opposition to nutrition and hydration being understood as medical treatment. 

Under current UK law providing assisted feeding and hydration (by tube or drip) is understood and treated as medical interventions. 

Calls by the Bishops' Conference come after a Catholic patient, hospitalised in Plymouth, passed away earlier this week after a London-based judge ruled life-support should be withdrawn. 

The patient, only known as "R.S", had fallen into a coma after he suffered a heart attack in November. Since then, doctors had said his brain had been severely damaged and there was no hope of recovery. 

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, "R.S'" mother and sister took the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg but failed to achieve their intervention.   

In a statement, The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said: "Providing food and water to very sick patients, even by assisted means, is a basic level of care. This care must be given whenever possible unless it is medically indicated as being overly burdensome or failing to attain its purpose".

"We pray that what happened here will not be repeated in the future, and hope that all those requiring Clinically Assisted Nutrition and Hydration (CANH) will be treated with proper human dignity," the statement continued. 

Speaking about "R.S'" death, Bishop of Plymouth Mark O'Toole said: "I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Mr RS. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, children, mother, sisters, and niece and with all those who loved and cared for him.  Local clergy will continue to offer pastoral support to the family living in Plymouth, as they have done throughout his time in hospital."

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