Advertisement

Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 762–764 | Cite as

Courts, doctors and end-of-life care

  • Malcolm M. FisherEmail author
  • Raymond F. Raper
Editorial

The case of Burke vs the General Medical Council recently described in this journal [1] has provoked some concern within the medical profession. In this case, Mr. Les Burke, who suffers from degenerative cerebral ataxia, sought judicial review of the General Medical Council’s guidelines on withholding/withdrawing life-prolonging treatment. He argued that the ability of doctors to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging treatment breached the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically the right to life and the right to be spared inhuman and degrading treatment. In particular, Mr. Burke objected to the GMC guidance that allowed doctors to withdraw artificial nutrition or hydration from a patient where doctors felt that the patient’s quality of life or chance of recovery was very poor.

Mr. Burke mounted this case for both personal and general reasons [2]. His first cited reason was a fear of “torturous starving and dehydrating to death when unable to communicate.” Mr. Burke’s fear is...

Keywords

Palliative Care General Medical Council Diamorphine Artificial Nutrition Palliative Care Program 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. 1.
    Woodcock T, Wheeler R (2005) News. Glass v United Kingdom and Burke v GMC. Intensive Care Med (in press)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Les Burke. Personal communicationsGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ganzini L, Goy ER, Miller LL, Harvath TA, Jackson A, Delorit MA (2003) Nurses’ experiences with hospice patients who refuse food and fluids to hasten death. N Engl J Med 349:359–365CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Airedale NHS Trust v Bland (1993)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ashby MA, Mendelson D (2004) Gardner; re BWV: Victorian Supreme Court makes landmark Australian ruling on tube feeding. Med J Aust 181:442–445Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dresser R (2004) Schiavo: A hard case makes questionable law. Hastings Cent Rep 34:8–9Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Lo B, Dornbrand L, Wolf LE, Groman M (2002) The Wendland case—withdrawing life support from incompetent patients who are not terminally ill. N Engl J Med 346:1489–1493Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Fisher M, Raper RF (2000) Commentary: delay in stopping treatment can become unreasonable and unfair. BMJ 320:1268–1269Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Northridge v Central Sydney Health Service (2000)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Mesiha v Southeastern Sydney Health Service (2004)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Azoulay E, Pochard F, Chevret S, Adrie C, Annane D, Bleichner G, Bornstain C, Bouffard Y, Cohen Y, Feissel M, Goldgran-Toledano D, Guitton C, Hayon J, Iglesias E, Joly LM, Jourdain M, Laplace C, Lebert C, Pingat J, Poisson C, Renault A, Sanchez O, Selcer D, Timsit JF, Le Gall JR, Schlemmer B, FAMIREA Study Group (2004) Half the family members of intensive care unit patients do not want to share in the decision-making process: a study in 78 French intensive care units. Crit Care Med 32:1832–1838Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Intensive Therapy UnitRoyal North Shore Hospital of SydneySt. LeonardsAustralia

Personalised recommendations