• The Victorian Supreme Court has decided that artificial nutrition and hydration provided through a percutaneous gastrostomy tube to a woman in a persistent vegetative state may be withdrawn. • The judge ruled, in line with a substantial body of international medical, ethical and legal opinion, that any form of artificial nutrition and hydration is a medical procedure, not part of palliative care, and that it is a procedure to sustain life, not to manage the dying process. • Thus, the law does not impose a rigid obligation to administer artificial nutrition or hydration to people who are dying, without due regard to their clinical condition. The definition of key terms such as “medical treatment”, “palliative care”, and “reasonable provision of food and water” in this case will serve as guidance for end-of-life decisions in other states and territories. • The case also reiterates the right of patients, and, when incompetent, their validly appointed agents or guardians, to refuse medical treatment. • Where an incompetent patient has not executed a binding advance directive and no agent or guardian has been appointed, physicians, in consultation with the family, may decide to withdraw medical treatment, including artificial nutrition or hydration, on the basis that continuation of treatment is inappropriate and not in the patient’s best interests. However, Victoria and other jurisdictions would benefit from clarification of this area of the law
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