Doctors can continue to give life-saving blood transfusions to the daughter of a Jehovah's Witness, three Appeal Court judges ruled yesterday.
Their decision could have profound implications on whether an adult has a constitutional right to die.
The 20-year-old woman, who had a stillborn baby after being injured in a car accident, was said to have signed an objection to transfusion to please her mother. Jehovah's Witnesses believe the use of blood is a sin.
Full reasons for the judges' decision will be given next week. But the Master of the Rolls, Lord Donaldson, sitting with Lord Justices Butler-Sloss and Staughton, made it clear that the patient's doctor are legally free to continue treating her 'in accordance with what they think is in her best interests'.
Last week in the High Court, Mr. Justice Ward decided that the woman, from Stoke-on-Trent, was under her mother's influence when she refused transfusions and her objection was stated before she became so critically ill.
His ruing, giving the go ahead for transfusions, was won by the patient's father - divorced from the mother and not a Jehovah's Witness - and two West Midlands health authorities.
It was challenged in the Appeal Court by the Official Solicitor, Mr. David Venables, acting on behalf of the patient who was unable to look after her own affairs. It was argued that self-determination extended even to refusal of treatment necessary to preserve life.
Lawyers later said that next week's ruling would be vital in laying down guidelines for doctors in similar cases.