Bishops to intervene in 'end of life decision' court case

 The Court of Appeal has given leave to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales to act as an intervener in the case of Lesley Burke v the General Medical Council (GMC). The hearing starts next week. Last year the High Court judgement in this case by Mr Justice Munby ruled that aspects of the GMC guidance on withholding and withdrawing treatment were illegal. The judgement was far reaching and raised profound ethical questions about the relationship between patients and doctors in the context of life-sustaining treatment decisions. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) is one of a number of interveners that have been given leave by the Court of Appeal to make written representations. Others include the Official Solicitor, the Department of Health, the Disability Rights Commission and Patient Concern. Archbishop Smith said: "The High Court judgement in this important case raised fundamental ethical issues about the scope of patient autonomy and the duties of doctors seeking to make clinical decisions in the best interests of patients. The implications for end of life decisions are potentially serious andcould erode the law against euthanasia. It is important that the law continues as it has in the past to hold to a position which does not allow individual autonomy, important as that is, to become the only or overriding principle". The Bishops' Conference was last granted the right to make representations in the case of Dianne Pretty, and did so in the House of Lords and also at the European Court of Human Rights in that case. The CBCEW has instructed Eleanor Sharpston QC and Angela Patrick, together with John Finnis, Professor of Law at Oxford University to act as counsel. Source: CCN

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