Tony Bland was a victim of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster when football fans were crushed and 95 people died. Tony survived but he was in a coma and the doctors believed he would never come out of it. He was described as being in a 'persistent vegetative state' (PVS). This condition would be better described as a 'persistent non-responsive state'.
Tony could open his eyes but he did not seem to focus on anything and he couldn't communicate or respond to the people around him. The doctors did not know if Tony was aware of the people around him and the things they were saying and doing to him.
Tony was able to digest food normally but he could not feed himself. The doctors thought it was dangerous to let him swallow his food so he was given food and water through a tube.
PVS patients and others who cannot feed themselves rely on others to help them with their food.
Dr Keith Andrews, a PVS specialist describes the feeding tube as "a tool for daily living, similar to the specially adapted spoons that enable arthritic patients to feed themselves".British Medical Journal 12/12/92 [Dr Andrews supports voluntary euthanasia]
The reason Tony Bland's case went to court was because he was NOT dying. We will all die if someone takes away our food and fluids. For Tony to die at that time his food and fluids had to be withdrawn because he was not dying from his illness. The cause of death was not PVS or even the Hillsborough disaster; it was starvation and dehydration.
Tony Bland was kept alive in order to take his case to court. He suffered septicaemia, which the doctors treated to keep him alive. If this treatment had been withdrawn Tony would have died naturally. This would not have been euthanasia as doctors can withdraw treatment if it is of no benefit to the patient and has no effect on their condition, or if it is a burden. Doctors do not have to do everything in their power to keep someone alive but in this case they did.
When the courts allow a person to be denied food and fluids in order to end their life, the case is then used as a model for others. Those in favour of euthanasia use Tony Bland's case to show that those in PVS have been 'allowed to die' and should be 'allowed to die'.
Tony Bland was not ?allowed to die' as he was not dying. His food and fluids were withdrawn with the purpose of ending his life. Doctors or the courts are then allowed to decide when to end another person's life.
Advocates of euthanasia also use Tony Bland's case to argue that if someone who cannot ask to be killed has the ?right to die' then so should those who are capable of deciding for themselves when they want to end their lives.
Dying Through Starvation and Dehydration is a painful way to die both for those subjected to it and for those who have to watch. Those in favour of euthanasia are then in a position where they can argue that lethal injection is both a quicker and kinder way to die.
The Mental Capacity Act (2005) for England and Wales, has enshrined in statute law the idea that assisted food and fluids should be considered as medical treatment that could be withdrawn.
Tony's parents did suffer seeing their son in a coma for four years. They also suffered seeing doctors actively treat his septicaemia to keep him alive, and then being advised that Tony's food and fluids should be withdrawn to let him die. They then suffered through watching their son be starved and dehydrated to death.
It is unknown how much Tony was aware of but he responded to pain. To die through starvation and dehydration must have been painful for him and also for his parents to watch. To die from septicaemia would have been a natural death, to die by starvation and dehydration takes 7-14 days.