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WWII Vet Joins Les Burke In Battle For His Right To Life
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 4, 2004

SLOUGH, ENGLAND--Leslie Burke is not alone in his fight to have his wishes to stay alive known when he is not able to speak for himself.

Bill Leach, 82, a veteran of World War II and a former Slough factory worker, says he is offering Mr. Burke as much support as he can.

Both men have been diagnosed with cerebral ataxia, a condition -- similar to multiple sclerosis -- which doctors say gets worse as the person ages.

People who have cerebral ataxia eventually lose the ability to move, talk or eat on their own. They continue, however, see, hear, and understand everything that is going on around them.

Last week, Burke challenged in High Court the General Medical Council guidelines that allow doctors to remove feeding tubes from patients whose continued treatment is considered "to burdensome in relation to the possible benefits".

Burke believes the GMC's guidelines violate his "right to life" under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr. Leach told the Trinity Mirror that he would support any effort to protect the rights of Mr. Burke and anyone else who has cerebral ataxia.

"I think it is wrong," Mr. Leach told the Trinity Mirror of the GMC policy. "He has got every right to live his life through every means until he dies of natural causes."

"If it reaches the stage where the sufferer cannot communicate, it should be up to the relatives to make the decision, and not doctors. Doctors have too much power these days when people reach the last stages of their disease - that was why Harold Shipman was able to get away with killing all those people."

Leach was referring to serial killer Dr. Harold Shipman who was convicted four years ago of murdering 15 female patients. Investigators later linked the general practitioner to between 215 and 260 murders. The vast majority of his victims were medically-fragile women to whom Shipman had given lethal doses of heroin.

An investigation is underway to determine how Shipman was able to kill so many without being detected over a 23-year period. The report is due in the summer.

Shipman hung himself two months ago in his prison cell.

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