UK Man Goes to European Court Asking He Not Be Starved to Death in Hospital

A 45-year-old man who fears his doctors may refuse him food and water has taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights, reported the BBC today.

Les Burke suffers from a brain illness, cerebella ataxia, which may result in his eventual paralysis. He faces a likely future of being unable to move or speak, but with full mental capacity.

Under General Medical Council guidelines, his doctors would be permitted to withdraw food and water from him once his condition deteriorates. Mr. Burke is trying to ensure that does not happen.

A British High Court ruling that would have prevented his doctors from withdrawing essential nutrition from him was overturned last year when the GMC appealed the ruling. Mr. Burke was refused the right to appeal to the Lords.

Mr. Burke’s lawyer, Muiris Lyons, told the BBC, “We were very surprised that the Lords said the case did not have a significant public interest.” Mr. Lyons said denying Mr. Burke food and water would be a denial of his human rights.

Health officials said the original ruling left too much room for patients to make further treatment demands, and the GMC said doctors would be in an impossible position if Mr. Burke wins his case.

A proposed amendment to a Mental Capacity Bill that would have prevented common removal of food and water from terminal patients was defeated in the UK parliament in December 2004.

The pro-life group LIFE warned at the time that the bill as it stood could “open the floodgates” for euthanasia, describing the bill as “[an] underhand attempt to licence euthanasia by omission &#0151 which would surely be the first step to licensing euthanasia by a direct action, i.e. by commission.”

(This article courtesy of

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