LANCASTER, May 17, 2005 ( – A UK doctor’s group has appealed a UK High Court ruling of last year that said a patient should be presumed to want to live in the event that they are no longer able to communicate, and should not be deprived of life-sustaining food and water.

Leslie Burke, who successfully challenged the General Medical Council (GMC) guidance on the treatment of the terminally ill last July, is worried that doctors would deny him nutrition and hydration if his neurological condition deteriorates to the point he cannot communicate his wish to continue living.

GMC lawyer Philip Havers claimed the ruling “puts the doctor in an impossibly difficult position, for a doctor should never be required to provide a particular form of treatment to a patient which he does not consider clinically appropriate,” according to a BBC report. The GMC outrageously claims that feeding and giving water to a person who can no longer do it for themselves is a form of treatment, which may be “dangerous” or “clinically inappropriate.”

Before the landmark ruling, according to UK law, a physician’s decision to end a patient’s life – based on their judgement of a patient’s quality of life – supersedes even the wishes of family members such as spouses, children, or even parents.

“Quite often because I use a wheelchair I have been spoken over, spoken at and spoken about as if I was not in the room,” Burke, who suffers from the terminal condition known as cerebellar ataxia, said. “There have been many occasions people have done what they thought was in my best interests but have not asked me. You have two to three weeks if food or hydration is withdrawn. For those two to three weeks my mind will know what is going on. The best way of describing it is that it is similar to multiple sclerosis. Your mind remains but you have no control over your body or speech. Only those who know me very well will be able to understand me.”

“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,” commented Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

“The GMC’s guidelines seem to encompass everybody saying artificial food and fluid is treatment,” Burke added. “If a doctor does not believe I have a good quality of life he could withdraw my treatment (food and hydration.) It is not treatment – it is a matter of human dignity. We need food and drink . . . I enjoy my life. I feel so positive about life at the moment. I want to see my goddaughter grow up.”

Read related coverage:

Terminally Ill UK Man Fights for Right to Not be Killed by Withdrawal of Food and Water

UK Man Wins Right not to be Deprived of Nutrition and Hydration