July 29, 2005
British Courts Rule Against Leslie BurkeTopics:
Britain's court of appeal on Thursday has overturned a ruling that a terminally-ill patient has the right to stop doctors withdrawing treatment when his illness reaches its final stages.
Last July, Leslie Burke, who had the degenerative brain condition cerebellar ataxia, won a high court judgment that physicians and hospitals must honour a patient's wish for life-prolonging treatment.
Burke, 45, had challenged guidelines by the General Medical Council on withholding and withdrawing such treatment.
Burke said he feared that when he lost the ability to communicate, he might be denied food and water and die of starvation or thirst.
The medical council appealed and, on Thursday, a panel of three judges overturned the high court ruling.
Ruling in Burke's case last year, judge James Munby said most of the General Medical Council's guidelines had been put in place to re-assure patients and relatives, but some were unlawful, including one which allowed doctors to withdraw treatment from terminally-ill patients in some cases.
Disability rights groups had hailed that ruling.
The Disability Rights Commission said it provided "genuine protection for disabled people with serious long-term conditions".
The General Medical Council argued that its guidelines had been misinterpreted and there was no reason for the courts to intervene.
Burke said he hoped to take the case to the House of Lords, the country's highest court of appeal. He was denied permission to appeal, but could petition the house for a hearing.
Posted by joshua at July 29, 2005 5:44 PM
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