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A Living Death

40 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 21 June 2011

A review into the care of patients in vegetative or low awareness states has been launched by the Royal College of Physicians. There are thought to be as many as 5000 such people in the UK.
The working party will look at concerns that assessment and diagnosis of patients is not consistent across the country and will ask whether the cost of long term care is affordable to the NHS.
Ann Alexander examines calls for a reform of the process to end the life of such patients where their families believe their loved one would no longer wish to be alive.
The programme reveals how some hospitals appear unaware of the law and hears how the process can be lengthy and costly, putting families under further strain.
Producer: Paul Grant.

  • Caring for 'vegetative state' patients

    Caring for 'vegetative state' patients

    The dilemmas and heartache suffered by the families of those in a vegetative state could be eased with improvements in diagnosis and more information for families, experts tell the BBC.

    Read Ann Alexander's feature on the BBC website


    As a medical review begins into the care of people in a vegetative state, Ann Alexander asks whether it should be made simpler to end the life of patients in this condition.

    Read the transcript


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