Why the GMC is right to appeal over life prolonging treatmentBMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7470.810 (Published 07 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:810
- Raanan Gillon (firstname.lastname@example.org), emeritus professor of medical ethics
- Imperial College Medical Ethics Unit, Department of Primary Care and Social Medicine, London W6 8RP
The General Medical Council, Britain's regulatory body for doctors, is surely right to have appealed against a high court ruling that its current guidance on withholding and withdrawing life prolonging treatment is unlawful.1 2 If not overturned the judgment is likely severely to tilt the balance of medical practice towards non-beneficial and wasteful provision of life prolonging treatment in general and of artificial nutrition and hydration in particular.
The specific case on which the high court made this ruling is uncontroversial. If the existing GMC guidance were followed Mr Burke, who took the case to the high court and who has degenerative spinocerebellar ataxia, would have been treated with artificial nutrition and hydration for rather longer than Mr Justice Munby has now ruled that he must be treated. But the judgment itself extends far beyond the particular case and can be predicted to …