Pendulum swings back

    Those lobbying for the “right to die” for people with serious
    medical conditions have been so successful in generating attention
    to their cause that the “right to live” argument rather fell by the
    wayside.

    So we welcome the judgement in favour of disability rights adviser
    Leslie Burke, who feared his degenerative brain disorder would one
    day lead to doctors hastening his death on the grounds that his
    quality of life had deteriorated.

    Ever since the legal ruling that doctors could withdraw artificial
    feeding from Hillsborough stadium victim Tony Bland, who was left
    in a persistent vegetative state, many severely disabled people
    have felt uneasy about their relationship with the medical
    profession.

    The Bland case led to the medical establishment producing
    guidelines on when drip-feeding could be halted. But, as the judge
    in the latest case pointed out, there are serious flaws in those
    guidelines. For one thing, they are based on a “quality of life”
    test that puts too much power in the hands of the doctor. A medic
    may well feel that a patient with severe disabilities has a poor
    quality of life. But that person may argue, “Actually I’m
    fine”.

    The new ruling helps swing the balance back in favour of the
    individual. For disabled people this is a real life or death issue.
    There will be widely differing views among disabled people
    themselves. And this is a tricky ethical area for all concerned.
    But the least people should be able to expect is that, when
    difficult decisions have to be made, the outcome accords with their
    wishes, not someone else’s.

    More from Community Care

    Comments are closed.