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Leslie Burke Case

The Leslie Burke Case has aroused considerable interest in the UK and given rise to long legal judgments, most recently from the Appeal Court. It concerns a patient suffering from a degenerative brain condition who fears that at some future time, when he will perhaps be unable to express his wishes, doctors may decide to terminate his artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH). The appeal was brought by the General Medical Council against various points made by the judge in the initial case. The appeal was allowed, thus rejecting a number of declarations made by the judge. In particular the Appeal Court states that there is no doubt that, where a competent patient makes it plain that he wishes to be kept alive, “no authority lends the slightest countenance to the suggestion that the duty on doctors to take reasonable steps to keep the patient alive in such circumstances may not persist”. A VES press statement called on the government to clarify the situation and not leave the whole matter to the courts.

Source: Newsletter RtD-Europe, September 2005.