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Man Challenges Medical Council On Feeding Tube Rule
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 6, 2004

LONDON, ENGLAND--Leslie Burke is fighting for his life.

According to a recent story in the Guardian Unlimited, Burke is challenging guidelines drawn up by the General Medical Council which determine when doctors can remove feeding tubes from patients.

Under the guidelines published last year, doctors need to seek court permission before disconnecting feeding tubes from patients considered to be in a "permanent vegetative state". The rules, however, allow doctors to end such artificial feeding without court approval for patients with other medical conditions.

Burke has cerebellar ataxia, a brain condition that is expected to get worse over time. Burke, 43, says he wants the GMC to make changes before he is no longer able to speak for himself. He said he is afraid that doctors will decide his "quality of life" is so poor it would not be worth keeping him alive.

"I feel very strongly that if I ever end up in hospital in the position where my life is in the balance, doctors should not be able to make the final decision on whether my life is worth living or not," Burke said. "Doctors and medical staff are very skilled, but I don't think they have any full understanding of the quality of life you can have if you're disabled in some way."

The high court is scheduled to hear Burke's case in late February. Burke plans to argue that the guidelines violate both British and European law because it gives doctors the power to withdraw needed medical treatment without knowing what the patient would have wanted and without court oversight.

Related article:
"Patient challenges doctors for right to live" (Guardian Unlimited),3604,1112450,00.html


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