April 20, 2024

Save me from my doctors, says UK patient

A 44-year-old man with a degenerative brain condition has challenged official UK guidelines on withdrawing life-prolonging treatment. As a victim of cerebellar ataxia, Leslie Burke is already confined to a wheelchair and foresees that he will eventually be paralysed and unable to communicate even though he will be mentally competent. He fears that under General Medical Council guidelines his doctors could withhold food and water from him until he died.

Mr Burke’s barrister argues that the guidelines could breach his right to life and his right to be spared inhuman and degrading treatment under the European convention on human rights, as well as his right to autonomy and his right to a fair hearing. The counsel for the GMC described the scenario painted by Mr Burke as unrealistic.