A British man has lost his legal fight to say that he has a right to not be starved by doctors when he is rendered unable to speak for himself. Leslie Burke, who has Friedreich’s ataxia—a disease that attacks the body but does not impair mental ability—had appealed all the way to the European Court of Human Rights to have someone simply say that food and water are basic human rights. The courts have ruled that the British doctors—part of the socialized health care system in the country—not the patient, have the right to decide a patient’s treatment—or lack thereof apparently.
“I only hope that if I am lucky enough to be in hospital, that the doctors treating me will not believe at some stage that it will be in my best interests for ANH to be withdrawn.”
He said that “even when death is imminent” the withdrawal of sustenance would be “effectively letting me die of starvation and thirst when I am no longer able to communicate my wishes”.
The European court said that it was satisfied that Britain’s laws sufficiently favored prolonging life “wherever possible.” Tell that to Terri Schiavo. A few years ago—and perhaps even today—plenty of people believe that the United States’ laws sufficiently favor prolonging life for patients not in imminent danger of death.
What we have is courts and doctors taking for themselves and an absolute right over the life and death of innocent people who have committed no crime. It used to be that the right to life was considered inviolable in a free and democratic society. We even have it enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. That right is slipping away, however.