Ethical guidelines for the care of people in post-coma unresponsiveness

Summary information

Publishing date: 
Reference number: 
E81, E82
Available in print: 
Further information: 

The National Health and Medical Research Council has released two documents for the care of people in post-coma unresponsiveness (vegetative state) or a minimally responsive state:

  • Ethical Guidelines for the Care of People in Post-Coma Unresponsiveness (Vegetative State) or a Minimally Responsive State, and its companion document,
  • A Guide for Families and Carers of People with Profound Brain Damage.

The guidelines aim to contribute to the care of people in a state of post-coma unresponsiveness (PCU) or a minimally responsive state (MRS) by addressing ethical issues associated with this care – especially the complicated issues that have proved difficult for families, health professionals, courts and tribunals. They provide an ethical framework to guide decisions in the best interests of people in PCU or MRS, and they offer a basis for reaching consensus among health professionals and families involved in making these decisions. They are intended to assist care providers in decision-making from a time that is sufficiently past the initial injury so as not to interfere with or influence acute management, but at a point when rapid changes are no longer expected.

The Guide for Families has been prepared for the families and friends of people in PCU or MRS. It explains these conditions, and the types of treatment and care that may or may not apply in individual situations.

Both documents are aimed at people diagnosed with PCU or MRS diagnosed in accordance with Post-coma unresponsiveness (Vegetative state): A clinical framework for diagnosis (2003), which can be downloaded from here.

Further information on the project can be found here.

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