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Development of Guidelines for the Care of People in Post-Coma Unresponsiveness

The Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) established a Working Party in 2005 to develop guidelines for the care of people diagnosed with post-coma unresponsiveness and people in a minimally responsive state.

Release of the guidelines

The Guidelines were officially launched on 19 June 2008, and are now available to download below.  Hard copies can be ordered by phoning National Mailing and Marketing on 02 6269 1000.

View publication

Background Information

On 15 May 2000, the New South Wales Health Department wrote to the Department of Health and Ageing seeking assistance from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in the development of guidelines on the diagnosis of persistent vegetative state (now called post-coma unresponsiveness [PCU]).

NHMRC accepted the task as a two-stage joint project to be undertaken jointly by the previous Health Advisory Committee (HAC) and the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC). In the first stage HAC, through a public consultation process, developed an Information Paper covering the appropriate diagnosis of PCU.

Post-Coma Unresponsiveness ( Vegetative State): A Clinical Framework for Diagnosis, was endorsed by Council in December 2003 and included a brief section on continuing care.

Following the release of this document, AHEC undertook additional guidelines on the ethical care of people in PCU or a minimally responsive state.  Draft guidelines were released for public consultation in July 2007, and were circulated widely to identified stakeholders as well as being advertised nationally in newspapers and professional journals.  The guidelines were revised in light of comments received, and final documents released in June 2008.

Post-Coma Unresponsiveness Working Committee Membership

Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini

Chair / AHEC Member

Reverend Prof John Morgan

Religious / ethics expertise

Ms Margaret Bramwell

Social Worker

Ms Diane Chamberlain

Nurse (Critical Care)

Mr Julian Gardner


Dr Peter Greenberg


Ms Michele Kosky

Consumer representative

Dr William Silvester

Intensive care

Assoc Prof John Watson


Ms Adelle Whalan

Nurse (General Care)

A/Prof John Olver


Rev. Dr. Gerald Gleeson

AHEC Member

Dr Mark Deuble

Palliative Care specialist

Further information

For more information please contact the Project Officer:

Postal address

Project Officer – Post-Coma Unresponsiveness
Health and Research Ethics Section
Quality and Regulation Branch
GPO Box 1421
Canberra ACT 2601

Email address


Page last updated on 15 November 2013