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

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...


Palliative Care General Medical Council Diamorphine Artificial Nutrition Palliative Care Program 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

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

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