The information below is for the family and close friends of someone who is in a vegetative state (VS) or minimally conscious state (MCS).  Other people, such as doctors and nurses caring for people in a VS or MCS, may also find the information on medical decision-making useful.

Making medical decisions

People who are in a vegetative state show no awareness of themselves or their surroundings and people in a ‘minimally conscious state’ show extremely limited and inconsistent awareness of themselves and their surroundings. As people in these states are unable to make their own medical decisions, the information below is about who makes these decisions and how this is done.

These kinds of medical decisions can be complicated and sometimes involve the law. They may also be emotional and difficult for the family and close friends involved. So the leaflets aim to explain the facts, so that families can be clear about how decisions are made and what role they can play.

Both leaflets are about the same subject, and the first is a short, concise version of the second. The longer version has more detail and lists other sources of information that may be useful. You can download free PDFs of both below.

National clinical guidelines

This information was written as part of the development of the national guidelines, Prolonged disorders of consciousness: national clinical guidelines. The role of patients’ families, and their need for support and information, is also described in the guidelines and in the online annexes.

    Clinical guidelines