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Personal Autonomy and the Right to Treatment
A Note on R (on the application of Burke) v General Medical Council
Our first reading of Burke was in The Times when one’s immediate reaction was to question the precise nature of Munby J’s judgment – were it and its consequences directed to the specific problems of providing and withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) from dying patients or were the judge’s observations and conclusions to be read as being applicable across the whole spectrum of medical care of the terminally ill? Was it indeed the case, unlikely though it seemed, that a right to treatment had been established with scant regard for the attendant resource implications? It was assumed that these questions would be answered when the full transcript was available – and the major aim of this analysis is to discern whether or not this assumption was justified.