The first trial ever to be conducted entirely by Skype proceeded 'almost without a hitch', the presiding judge said handing down his ruling. Mr Justice Mostyn ruled that treatment should not be withdrawn from a retired NHS worker to allow him to starve to death.

Sitting remotely in the Court of Protection due to the coronavirus outbreak, he said it was 'categorically contrary' to the best interests of the man to be 'set on the path that will lead to his inevitable death'.

The man who is in 70s, suffered a major stroke in 2016, and receives hydration and nutrition through a feeding tube.

The court heard although he is 'grossly physically and mentally impaired' he is 'sentient, cognitively active, emotionally aware' and derives 'pleasure and satisfaction' from physical and emotional stimuli.

In particular the judge noted that he intermittently enjoyed eating doughnuts, chips, toast and cake, listening to music and an Irish radio station and 'became' emotional when poems by Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were read to him.

His daughter told the court that her father would not want to continue living in his current state and had expressed a wish that he would rather die than be kept alive as a 'body in a bed'.

The ruling followed a three-day trial, the first in England and Wales to be conducted entirely by video, with all parties, including the judge taking part through the Skype for Business internet-based communications system.

This case was listed to be heard in court in Nottingham, but the judge said that the outbreak of COVID-19 meant that 'a traditional physical courtroom trial was likely to be extremely risky to the participants and therefore was unacceptable'.

Thanking Matt Nichols of DAC Beachcroft in Bristol, the solicitor for the GP, who had organised and managed the virtual hearing, the judge said it had 'proceeded almost without a hitch'.

He said: 'In the current national crisis, it must be expected that hearings will be conducted remotely in this way as a matter of routine practice.'