This Essay considers the different approaches to end of life decision making for incapacitated patients in the United States and in the United Kingdom. In the United States, individual patient autonomy is the primary guidepost for making end of life decisions for incapacitated patients. In the United Kingdom, patient preference is openly and deliberately supplemented with a careful consideration of the patient’s best interest. To contrast the two approaches, the Essay focuses on two cases involving patients in permanent vegetative states (PVS) for whom little was known about their respective individual preferences, and it analyzes the differences in conceptualization and resolution of disputes concerning these patients’ care. Finally, the Essay considers whether and how U.S. physicians and patients might more actively incorporate a “best interests” principle into end of life decision making for patients in PVS.
Barbara A. Noah, Two Conflicts in Context: Lessons from the Schiavo and Bland Cases and the Role of Best Interests Analysis in the United Kingdom, 36 HAMLINE L. REV. 239 (2013).