LONDON, UK, February 26, 2004 ( – A British man is fighting the UK’s General Medical Council for the “right to life”. Leslie Burke, 44, suffers from a terminal degenerative brain condition called cerebellar ataxia. In the UK, doctors are allowed to euthanise the terminally ill by refusing them food and water.

The suit is considered a ‘test case’ for the terminally ill. Burke’s barrister, Richard Gordon, QC, said that the case is an important one because “Patients like Mr. Burke may die when they don’t want to die. They may die because of the withdrawal of artificial nourishment and hydration by clinicians who think it is in their best interests,” he explained. A physician’s decision to end a patient’s life supersedes even the wishes of family members such as spouses, children, or even parents.  Gordon argues that the UK law contravenes Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 2 guarantees the right to life, while Article 3 ensures that an individual will not receive degrading treatment at the hands of the state.  As the law stands, Burke has the right to die, by refusing food or water, thus ending his own life. He is not, on the other hand, permitted the right to life, because he cannot refuse a doctor who decides that it is his time to die. Gordon explained that Burke has the “right to die,” but that “the GMC guidance suggests or at least implies he cannot in the same way choose to live.”  Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, in a comment today to on the issue, said that “Even though Euthanasia remains illegal in almost every nation on earth, euthanasia by omission seems to have become a common practice under the guise of the withdrawal or withholding of basic medical care, usually by starvation and dehydration, of people who are not otherwise dying.”  In cases such as Leslie Burke in the UK, who wishes to live until his natural death, and in cases like Terri Schiavo, who is cognitively disabled, the removal of food and fluids is promoted as a way to intentionally end the person’s life, that is, to deliberately kill them.  Schadenberg says that “It is not euthanasia to remove food and fluids from a person who is very near death and who’s condition is worsened or who experiences pain and suffering from the provision of food and fluids. The action in those cases is not to intentionally kill the patient but rather allow for a comfortable natural death.”“The Leslie Burke case” Schadenbberg adds, “is important because if they win the case, it will effectively allow for the protection of thousands of people who may be starved and dehydrated to death, often against their consent.”  Read more about the work of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition at:  Read local coverage at:§ion=news   Read related coverage “UK Mulls Legalized Euthanasia – Committee Investigates Possibilities” at: