Friday, August 11, 2006

EU court denies plea to guarantee patient's food and water

Aug. 10 ( - The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Leslie Burke, a 46 year-old British man suffering from a degenerative neurological disease, has no reason to fear that he will be dehydrated to death when his illness renders him unable to speak.
The court has rejected Burke's attempt to ensure that he will not be dehydrated or starved to death in the final stages of his ultimately fatal illness. This in spite of the growing number of instances of death by dehydration in Britain and abroad – most notably the dehydration death of Terri Schindler-Schiavo in 2005 – and the growth in influence in Britain of the euthanasia movement.
Burke had taken his fight all the way through the British court system, which ruled last year in favor of the General Medical Council (GMC). The GMC argued that it must reserve the right to dehydrate patients to death at a doctor’s discretion. Burke argued that GMC guidelines left too much latitude to individual doctors to decide when a patient’s life was no longer worth living.
The European court has ruled that there are adequate protections in British law against the premature removal of “artificial nutrition and hydration.”? Burke told the BBC, however, that he had no confidence in the assurances of the British public health system in which doctors regularly decide that continuing a person’s life is no longer in his “best interests." Britain, with a number of European countries, classifies nutrition and hydration as “medical treatment” that can be withdrawn at a doctor or a patient’s request, when life no longer seems sustainable. Anti-euthanasia activists warn that this ethics policy, added to the pressure of increasingly cash-strapped socialized medical systems looking for ways to remove patients from beds, places the onus on vulnerable patients to prove that their lives should be sustained.

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