A terminally-ill 18-year-old man who was at the centre of a right-to-life legal dispute between his parents and Hampshire doctors has died, lawyers say.

Alexander Elliott's case hit the headlines in February when a judge gave specialists working for the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust permission to withhold treatment.

Mrs Justice Hogg analysed the case at a hearing in the Court of Protection - where issues relating to sick and vulnerable people are considered - in London.

Doctors said they feared that Mr Elliott had no more than two weeks to live and a neurosurgeon said ''active treatment'' was ''futile''.

But the teenager's parents - Brian and Olya Elliott - disagreed.

They asked Mrs Justice Hogg to allow chemotherapy to continue.

Mrs Elliott launched what Mrs Justice Hogg described as a ''passionate'' fight at a late-night hearing which lasted more than eight hours.

And judges have been told at subsequent hearings in recent weeks that Mr Elliott had remained alive and "surpassed all expectations''.

A solicitor representing the Elliott family - Laura Hobey-Hamsher, who works for law firm Bindmans - said today that Mr Elliott died early this morning.

Mrs Justice Hogg had made an order barring reporters from revealing the identities of anyone involved while Mr Elliott was alive.

mfl Mr Elliott's father tonight paid tribute to his son, who had a brain tumour.

"My son was a courageous fighter, and the very definition of brave." he said.

"He went in his own time, with his dignity and autonomy intact, and not at the behest of the hospital trust who, since February, have repeatedly told the court that it was in his best interests for further life-preserving treatment to be stopped, and for him to be left to die.

"Had the trust succeeded in their application in February, we would have been denied his company over these last few months, and he would have been denied the last four precious months of his life."

He added: "Alex faced all of the challenges he encountered throughout his life head-on. He believed in standing up for doing what he thought was right. It is of some small consolation to us that he was allowed to continue to fight this fight to the end."

mfl A spokesman for University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said: "We are deeply saddened by Alex's death at a tragically young age. This is an extremely difficult and distressing time for his parents and we are doing all we can to support them.

"We first treated Alex at the age of one and he has been cared for over the years by a number of hospitals, having surgery and treatment in Birmingham, London and Liverpool as well as Southampton.

"After discussing the changes in his condition with our colleagues in Liverpool and Manchester in February, we talked with his parents about the most appropriate care and treatment for him at that stage of his life.

"In addition, guidance was also sought from the Court of Protection to clarify independently what was in his best interests.

"Although very upsetting for his family, Alex had reached a point where all medical and surgical treatment options had been exhausted and, due to his deteriorating condition, any further intervention would have been futile and risked causing him great distress."

He added: "We will continue to support Alex's parents and family in any way we can and will openly discuss any aspects of the treatment or care provided with them."