A judge is being asked to decide in a "unique" case whether life-sustaining treatment should be withdrawn from a brain-damaged woman described as being in a "minimally conscious state".
The application for withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration has been made by the mother of the 53-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Mr Justice Baker, who will hear the action at the Court of Protection in London, has previously described it as a "unique" case which raises "very important issues of principle".
The "particular issue of public importance" in what was a "tragic story" was that the woman was said to be in a minimally conscious state as opposed to a persistent vegetative state, which previous such cases before the courts have involved.
At a preliminary hearing, Vikram Sachdeva, counsel for the mother, said that she had suffered from serious brain damage since 2003.
She was previously healthy before being struck down by encephalitis. Initially, it was thought she was in a persistent vegetative state, but subsequently the diagnosis was agreed to be that of minimal consciousness, said Mr Sachdeva.
He told the court: "It is the applicant's expert's opinion that she is in a very low level minimally conscious state with no meaningful interaction with the environment." It was also said that there was evidence she "experiences bodily pain and physical discomfort on a regular basis".
The court has heard that the application was "strongly opposed" by the Official Solicitor, who represents the woman's interests.
During the full hearing, which is expected to last 10 days, the judge will hear expert evidence from both sides about her level of awareness and will reach a decision on whether treatment can lawfully be withdrawn.
Caroline Harry Thomas QC, representing the Official Solicitor, said at the preliminary hearing that the outcome of their medical expert report was that the woman could respond to touch and did so.