Human Exceptionalism

Futile Care Case out of the UK

This case is what the Leslie Burke verdict has wrought. Burke more or less won the right to life-sustaining care for the conscious and communicative in the UK. But the unconscious and uncommunicative were left high and dry by the decision, allowing doctors to decide whether they live or die.

The patient in this case is a devout Muslim and the family states he would want his life sustained based on deeply held religious beliefs. But doctors have decided that their idea of what is dignified and in his best interests trump what were his own and are his family’s. So, while he will receive tube-supplied food and water, he will be denied dialysis and has had a DNR imposed on his chart by court order.

The idea behind the decision is that the man is not going to get better. But this is a dangerous standard. It states that maintaining or extending life when that is what the patient wants is no longer an end purpose of medicine. A new standard is being imposed by bioethicists and courts.

This is also beginning to happen here and will occur with increasing frequency as more and more hospitals impose futile care protocols on their sickest patients.

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