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British Court Rules Paralyzed Woman Has Right to Die

A British court has for the first time granted a paralyzed woman the right to decide herself to have life-sustaining medical equipment turned off.

The paralyzed woman, identified only as "Miss B", has been trying for several months to convince her doctors to turn off the ventilator that keeps her alive.

Miss B went to court when the doctors refused her request. On Friday, the high court in London ruled in her favor. It was the first time a court has authorized someone considered to be in control of their full mental faculties to instruct doctors in Britain to switch off life support systems.

Richard Stein is a lawyer for Miss B. He said she will be able to transfer to another hospital where doctors are ready to carry out her wishes. "The importance of this case is to decide the issue that she's entitled to make a choice," he said, "and frankly I think it's for her now to make her choice."

Peter Marquand was the lawyer for the government doctors who have been caring for Miss B. He said his clients found the case had raised very difficult issues. "They've been greatly troubled by the conflicting moral and ethical dilemmas in this case, the first of its kind in this country to come before the court," he said.

Miss B's lawyers say it will now be up to her to decide on when she might go off the ventilator machine that gives her breath.

Miss B's identity has been protected by the court, but it is known that she is 43-years-old and not married. She became paralyzed a year ago when a blood vessel ruptured in her neck.