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From the same journal

The 'window of opportunity' for death after severe brain injury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Publication details

JournalSociology of Health and Illness: A Journal of Medical Sociology
DateE-pub ahead of print - 20 Dec 2012
DatePublished (current) - Sep 2013
Issue number7
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)1095-1112
Early online date20/12/12
Original languageEnglish


This article builds on and develops the emerging bioethics research on the 'window of opportunity' for allowing death by withholding or withdrawing treatment. Our findings are drawn from in-depth interviews with 26 people (from 14 different families) with severely brain injured relatives. These interviews were specifically selected from a larger study on the basis of interviewees' reports that their relatives would not have wanted to be kept alive in their current condition (e.g. in vegetative or minimally conscious states). Our analysis tracks the decision-making processes that have led to the situation in which life-sustaining treatments continue to be delivered to these patients - maintaining them in a state that some families describe as a 'fate worse than death'. We show how the medico-legal 'window of opportunity' for allowing the patient to die structures family experience and fails to deliver optimal outcomes for patients. We end with some suggestions for change.

    Research areas

  • coma, end-of-life, euthanasia, vegetative, minimally conscious

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