Is it time to recognize active euthanasia as a defense in English Law?
University of LondonExternal Undergraduate Laws Programme Student name: Syeda Sabita Amin
Is it time to recognize active euthanasia as a defense in English Law? Area of Law: Criminal Law Topic: Euthanasia
Overview of the presentation: Euthanasia Current stand in the UK Bland Recent cases Right to Life Justification against euthanasia Euthanasia in Europe & further development Most recent development in UK Conclusion
Euthanasia: Per curium, euthanasia is by means of positive steps to end a patient’s life. Can be carried out either by taking actions, including giving a lethal injection (active), or by not doing what is necessary to keep a person alive (passive). Most people think unbearable pain is the main reason people seek euthanasia.
Current Stand in the UK: An important distinction in English law exists between active euthanasia and passive euthanasia. Since Bland, "omissions" actions to remove life- saving care - have not been not illegal.
Bland: Airedale NHS Trust v. Bland AC 789 HL Anthony ("Tony") Bland, suffered severe brain damage that left him in a ”persistent vegetative state” for three years after he was injured in the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. Personal physician concluded there was no reasonable possibility of recovery.
Parents & hospital applied for a court order allowing him to die with dignity‘. Treatment was stopped and Tony Bland died on March 3rd 1993, being the first patient in English legal history to be allowed to die by the courts through the withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment.
Recent English cases that applied Bland: Re M  All ER (D) 142 An NHS Trust v J  EWHC 3152 Nhs Trust v I  EWHC 2243 NHS Trust v B  All ER (D) 44 NHS Trust v P All ER (D) 2363
Cases that considered Bland: Re G(TJ)  All ER (D) 218 Trust A and another v V and another EWHC 807 Re H  All ER (D) 381 NHS Trust v P  All ER (D) 109
Right to Life: Lord Bridge of Harwich: The most fundamental of all human rights is the individuals right to life and when an administrative decision under challenge is said to be one which may put the applicants life at risk, the basis of the decision must surely call for the most anxious scrutiny.
Justifications against euthanasia: John Stewart Mills liberty principle based on idea of utility, states that a person should have the liberty to do whatever he wishes, unless his act interferes with life of others. H.L.A Hart supports Mills but extends the principle with the limitation stating you cannot physically harm yourself. The Church of England view is that physician assisted suicide is incompatible with the Christian faith and should not be permitted by civil law.
Right to life ECHR: Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) protects the right to life. The article contains a limited exception for the cases of lawful executions and sets out strictly controlled circumstances in which the deprivation of life may be justified. Right to life was incorporated into Human Rights Act 1998 in English law under Section 6.
Euthanasia in Europe: The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia under "Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act" from 2002. Belgium & Luxembourg legalized euthanasia (Belgium Act of Euthanasia 2002 & Errr/Huss on de- criminalization of Euthanasia 2008 respectively).
Spain, Poland & Italy with strong catholic roots will never recognize euthanasia, as it as going against “God’s will”. Active euthanasia is not legal in Switzerland, but suicide groups have been assisting suicide within Switzerland based on a legal interpretation of their 1918 suicide law. Passive euthanasia is now possible in Sweden because of new medical guidelines which allow doctors to halt life- extending treatment if a patient asks.
Further development: September 2004 the Groningen Protocol was developed in The Netherlands, which sets out criteria to be met for carrying out child euthanasia without the physician being prosecuted. Contains directives with criteria under which physicians can perform "active ending of life on infants" without fear of legal prosecution.
Current status in UK law: In 2007, the House of Lords rejected the ‘Assisted Dying Bill” to give doctors the right to prescribe drugs that terminally ill patients in severe pain could use to end their own lives. The bill was put forward after Diane Pretty, a woman with terminal motor neurone disease, fought for the right to allow her husband to help her end her life.
If a person is charged with assisted suicide, they will be jailed for 14years according to Suicide Act 1961. She lost her case in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (Pretty v. the United Kingdom  All ER (D) 286), before she died in a hospice in May 2002.
Most recently in 2010, Margo Mcdonald, an independent Member of the Scottish Parliament took steps towards introducing End of Life Assistance Bill legalizing assisted suicide in Scotland. This Bill was heavily attacked by religious groups in Scotland, and was subsequently defeated in a parliamentary vote in December 2010.
Back to real question – is it time to recognize active euthanasia?Passive: Active: Doctor lets the patient die by Doctor takes an action with withdrawing medical care the intention that it will cause the patients death with prescription The death of the patient on humanitarian ground
Conclusion: The court distinguished circumstance from euthanasia, a criminal offense in which a doctor actively participates in bringing about a patients death. In future, doctors and families in similar situations were advised to petition the court before taking any comparable measure.
In Bland, court concluded hospital was neither entitled nor under a duty to continue such medical care for patient with no recovery. Therefore not be guilty of murder if they discontinue such care. However, as the law stands in UK, deliberate or "active" euthanasia will normally leave anyone assisting suicide or death liable for murder.